Leinster and new scrum coach Marco Caputo make a perfect blend
There were days when Marco Caputo was stirring the grounds in his Canberra coffee shop, and during that languorous wait for the intoxicating brew to steep, when he wondered would he ever again get a chance to coach.
Three years had elapsed since a damaging tussle with Jake White, the former coach of ACT Brumbies whose arrival in the Australian Capital Territory brought it with a ruthlessness that didn’t sit well with some staff who were already there.
Caputo (43), who was capped five times for the Wallabies and featured against Connacht on his country’s last unbeaten tour of the British Isles in 1996, was edged out as White ultimately took control of a struggling franchise which, to the South African World Cup winner’s credit, he would ultimately bring to a Super Rugby final last season.
Caputo reportedly threatened to go to court to seek extra severance pay and damages before he and the club reached a confidential settlement.
And so he went off to grind coffee beans, running the Piccolo coffee shop in the University of Canberra. And, as he measured out his life in coffee spoons, he waited for the phone to ring.
Sometimes it did; he managed a consultancy gig with Mitsubishi in Japan; oft-times it didn’t.
Then, one day, a familiar voice entreated him down the line from the other side of the world. “Fancy coming to Dublin, mate?” It wasn’t so much the offer that he couldn’t refuse, rather the person proffering it. He and Matt O’Connor played together as 12-year-olds.
“Matt and I go back a long way,” says Caputo, who apart from the Brumbies, had a peripatetic playing career embracing Worcester, Clermont and Harlequins. “We played all our junior rugby together, right from the age of 10 up to senior rugby, so we have got a long association.
“This is the first time we have actually worked together. It should be good, we have very similar philosophies on the game and how it should be played with particular reference to the set-piece so, yeah, we are very like-minded in that respect.
“Leinster have a fantastic reputation, particularly in the northern hemisphere in European rugby, so the opportunity to come to Leinster wasn’t really one I had to mull over too long.
“It was a great opportunity from a career point of view. You know, the depth of talent they have here, the fact that they are consistently at the top of the tree as far as the leaders of European rugby go, it was really a no-brainer for me.”
The family will follow – he has three kids, Sophia (16), Joseph (14) and Milli (4) – and as he sees it, Leinster will provide him with both a lifestyle change and an opportunity to rejuvenate his passion for coaching, a thirst which threatened to be utterly quenched by his ill-timed exit from the Brumbies.
“We are looking at it as a great experience to do as a family,” he says. “Dublin is a great town, gateway to Europe, so hopefully things will work out on the pitch and off the pitch as well.”
Ask him had he become disenchanted with coaching and he hardly hesitates in delivering his answer.
“A little, yeah, I think so,” he confirms. “The reality of coaching is that a new coach comes in and there is always a little bit of collateral damage there, so I had a little bit of time outside the game.
“But in the last couple of seasons, I have been working as consultant with Mitsubishi in Japan, which has reinvigorated my desire to get back on the horse so, yeah, I’m ready to go.”
With a Leinster pack dominated by Ireland internationals, Caputo’s role as scrum coach might seem to be a handy number; he himself believes that he can render even more improvement to the well-oiled unit.
“Leinster are renowned as a team that plays a lot with the ball and plays positive rugby,” he says.
“What I would like to do is take the function of the scrum to a point where it is spoken about as a key strength, a key part of the Leinster game.
“I want there to be real confidence every time Leinster find themselves in a decent field position, that they can go in the scrum and get a consistently positive outcome.
“If you ask anyone around the world would they like to work with someone like Cian Healy, he’s a remarkable player.”
Healy may find the relationship stimulating in more ways than one, given his status as the leading coffee enthusiast in the Leinster pack.