Friday 6 December 2019

Howe believes Anscombe has 'very difficult' task at Ulster

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

THERE will be plenty of speculation about what is going through the mind of outgoing Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin this week, but former Ireland winger Tyrone Howe attempted to get into the head of the incoming coach Mark Anscombe yesterday.

And the Sky Sports pundit reckons the New Zealander is coming into a no-win situation when he takes over the Heineken Cup finalists this summer.

"If I was the incoming coach sitting in New Zealand, watching the results I would be thinking 'oh s**t', because the best situation for a coach to come into is where things are rock bottom and the only way is up," Howe said.

"If Ulster were to win it, the only way is down, and if they lose, the only way to better it is to win it. So that's a very difficult situation for a new coach to come into. Also, McLaughlin has handled himself very well and there's a huge amount of affection for Brian as a person as well as a rugby coach within Ulster, and that's very difficult to break down as well."

Ulster have acknowledged that they handled the decision to replace the respected McLaughlin badly, but Howe believes they did it with the future in mind. And he's hoping that Anscombe and the existing coaching staff -- including the man he will replace -- will be able to work together smoothly.

"A lot of people are astounded by it. Players are picked on form and coaches probably expect the same," said Howe.

"But if you listen to what comes out of the Ulster camp, it was to try and maximise the sustainability of the success of the last two seasons and to maintain and improve the conveyor belt beyond the top. There's a lot of talent coming through.

"They would say themselves, that in terms of the way that it was handled and the timing, they would do it differently again.

"One of the most challenging areas will be the fact that you have an established support structure in terms of the coaches there. So you're bringing in a head coach but you've got a defence coach, an attack coach, a skills coach and there is no guarantee that that is going to gel.

"There could easily be personality (clashes). That's a very difficult situation and very difficult to maintain in the long term."

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