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Sunday 31 August 2014

Ulster need to be clever after Anscombe 'clowns' jibe

David Kelly

Published 02/07/2014 | 02:30

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Ulster head coach Mark Anscombe. Photo credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Ulster head coach Mark Anscombe. Photo credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Rugby fans haven't seen next season's fixture list for the Celtic League, but Cardiff Blues' trip to Ravenhill could be one of the first to leap from the page.

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Particularly if Welsh coach Warren Gatland gets his way and manages to persuade Gareth Anscombe that the Auckland youngster's playing future involves renditions of 'Bread of Heaven' and drizzly Friday nights in Rodney Parade.

Anscombe, of course, is son of Mark, the Ulster coach who had no sooner returned to Belfast from a few weeks of down-time in New Zealand before it was suggested, rather more sternly than may have been polite, if he fancied even more down-time.

Father and son were once mooted as potential partners in Ulster but, with Anscombe the younger yesterday calling the suits in Ravenhill "clowns" on Twitter, one senses the Anscombe family won't be planning Belfast day trips any time soon.

If Anscombe Jnr does decide to move to Wales, Cardiff remains the favoured venue, which would make the Blues' trip to Belfast, with son of the spurned Anscombe lining up, an interesting encounter.

Meanwhile, Ulster's biggest challenge now will be to avoid Anscombe's allusion to a circus attaining any sense of reality. Enter the IRFU.

It has acted swiftly to smooth the creases of the latest high-profile departure from the club and will remain committed to the process.

Even if Les Kiss does not remain part of the long-term solution, the IRFU, in the guise of new high-performance director David Nucifora and Joe Schmidt, will have its ears and eyes glued to the place.

Whether all this uncertainty means, for example, that the latest overseas parachutist, Jared Payne, may be gently persuaded that his Irish career may be better engineered while in Leinster blue rather that Ulster white, remains to be seen. Leinster have mentioned every name under the sun as they scramble to fill their vacancy at outside-centre; Payne's contract has been mentioned as a barrier to any move south.

Ask Mark Anscombe what he thinks of contracts this morning; if the IRFU wants such a move to happen, such a move will happen.

Watch now how the IRFU begins to utilise its influence to ensure that, just as happens in both Australia and New Zealand, the needs of the national side start to acquire paramount importance.

A quick mental scan of the global coaching scene suggests that few contenders are likely to become available in the short-term; Kiss may have to endure his double-jobbing for the entire season.

That would be hardly satisfactory in the short-term as Ireland prepares for a World Cup but, in the longer term, the more the provinces are singing off the national hymn sheet, the better that is for Irish rugby.

Irish Independent

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