Sunday 11 December 2016

Leinster pull off coup with short-term Henry deal

Published 02/07/2016 | 02:30

Graham Henry is Leinster's new coaching consultant. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Graham Henry is Leinster's new coaching consultant. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile

Perhaps it was a quick glance down south to see the fate that Munster's indigenous coaching ticket suffered or maybe it was a moment of self-realisation but either way, Leinster's short-term appointment of Graham Henry as a coaching consultant is a progressive step.

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Leo Cullen and his backroom team of Girvan Dempsey, John Fogarty and Kurt McQuilkin (the oldest at 50) are all inexperienced at the highest level and to hire a coach with such a stellar CV as Henry's should be a huge help.

Henry (above), who led his native New Zealand to the World Cup in 2011, has previously undertaken a similar role with Argentina and has been credited with developing the Pumas' expansive game-plan.

For the second year running, Leinster endured a trophy-less season. A disastrous Champions Cup campaign heaped pressure on Cullen while despite finishing top of the Pro12, they were beaten by Connacht in the final.

Henry (70) will arrive in Dublin on July 30 and is expected to have a direct involvement in Leinster's pre-season training throughout August.

Read more: Leinster elaborate on how All Blacks World Cup-winner Graham Henry will help rejuvenate the province

Sanction

Cullen is understood to have encouraged the province's professional games board to sanction Henry's arrival and he maintained that it was crucial for the development of the coaches.

"I felt it was important for myself and the wider coaching and playing staff in Leinster to look at different ways of challenging ourselves," Cullen said.

"Everyone in the organisation will benefit from his expertise and undoubtedly the coaches and the players will benefit from having a coach of his stature in and amongst us."

Henry guided the Auckland Blues to two Super Rugby titles in 1996 and '97, then coached Wales for four years before leading the Lions on their tour of Australia in 2001. He was knighted in 2012.

Key leaders like Eoin Reddan and Luke Fitzgerald have followed Ian Madigan, Ben Te'o and Marty Moore out the exit door. Henry is renowned for the mental toughness that he can instil on players and Leinster's talented youngsters are sure to benefit from his influence, even if it is only on a short-term basis.

The Kiwi will also speak with schools and club coaches across the province as Leinster look to utilise his expertise as much as possible.

Henry once said: "Part of the enjoyment of coaching rugby is that you're always trying to find a little thing that will make a difference. Something that is just going to give you a small edge."

Leinster supporters and Cullen will be hoping that in his short time with the club, those "small edges" can make a big difference for the coming season and beyond.

Irish Independent

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