Saturday 19 October 2019

Dempsey to use Leinster lesson in reviving Bath as attacking force in English top tier

Girvan Dempsey. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Girvan Dempsey. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Charlie Morgan

The success of the Irish wild geese has encouraged more coaches of the oval-ball game to spread their wings and enjoy success this year.

In New Zealand, Ronan O'Gara helped the Crusaders to another Super Rugby title. Paul O'Connell went to Paris and joined the backroom staff of Stade Francais to run lineouts. Noel McNamara, the Ireland U-20 coach, has headed to New Zealand for a placement with Mitre 10 Cup club North Harbour.

Girvan Dempsey, who left double-winning Leinster at the end of last season to join Bath as Todd Blackadder's attack coach, represents one of the most interesting additions to the Gallagher Premiership.

"I always looked to Mark McCall and Jeremy Davidson," Dempsey says, rolling off the bosses of Saracens and Brive as two major influences.

"There weren't many coaches [before them] who had gone and dipped their toe in other countries to get exposure. The way the professional game is, it is a risk. But the game is global and there is huge opportunity."

Reports from Bath's training centre, Farleigh House, befit Dempsey's pedigree and suggest the calm 42-year-old has fitted in well. Encouraged into coaching in 2009 by Michael Cheika, Joe Schmidt's predecessor at Leinster, Dempsey rose swiftly through the ranks.

Before graduating to the post of senior backs coach in 2015, the 82-cap former full-back managed Leinster's prolific academy and oversaw two British and Irish Cup victories for the Leinster 'A' side.

Those teams were graced by Tadhg Furlong, Dan Leavy and other stars of today. So, at least in part, Dempsey can be credited for the emergence of a special crop of players.

International Rugby Newsletter

Rugby insights and commentary from our renowned journalists like Neil Francis, Will Slattery, Alan Quinlan & Cian Tracey.

Explaining his move, Dempsey says: "It's not feasible in the modern game to think you are going to be an Arsene Wenger or a Guy Noves."

He and his wife, Ann-Marie, had lived in Sandycove in Dublin for 15 years. They felt their boys Peter, nine, and Patrick, six, were at a good age to uproot.

Revisiting Leinster's Champions Cup triumph - and the intricate, incisive play that characterised it - divulges the methods Bath supporters can expect.

"Leinster's attack grew over a number of years," he explains. "It didn't happen overnight. We put in a huge amount of groundwork through developing skills, players' ability to make decisions and having an attacking framework to allow players to do that. We didn't want to be seen as a one-style team.

"There was a clear Leinster philosophy, but within that, we wanted to have the ability to play a pressurised rugby game dependent on conditions and opposition and we wanted to be able to roll up our sleeves and play a tough game."

Irish accomplishments have yielded introspection from the English game and criticism of the Guinness Pro14. Dempsey has a measured outlook.

He cites Leinster's difficult 2014-'15 season as the catalyst for outstanding centre Garry Ringrose and fly-half Ross Byrne, among others, to push through, but admits the Pro14 format is "helpful" for building game-time.

"When we'd scout English teams, we were always envious of how they could build cohesion and continuity in terms of combinations of players and positions.

"We had our challenges with rotation because of player management and international players only being allowed to play a certain amount of minutes. But that lent itself to growing younger kids - it had pros and cons.

"I'm really excited about this challenge and we'll hopefully be able to do something in between. It won't be the same team rolled out every week.

"We'll hopefully have a fit, healthy and experienced squad, so we can keep it fresh."

Schmidt seconded Dempsey to his backroom team for Ireland's 2017 tour of Japan and the United States.

His insight on the Test arena should benefit a Bath squad aiming to bounce back from an underwhelming season.

In an amusing sub-plot, Leinster are in their Champions Cup pool. Dempsey says Bath possess "fantastic leaders".

Matt Garvey, Rhys Priestland, Dave Attwood and Jamie Roberts are the obvious figureheads.

It feels as though Eddie Jones's England can also benefit from the likes of Jonathan Joseph, Anthony Watson and Joe Cokanasiga spending time with him.

"I look at it as trying to make the game easier for your mate beside you," he says.

"How can you do that through your actions and what you discuss with him in the moment or after a game? You don't always wait for a coach." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

The Left Wing: Welcome to Irish rugby's biggest week - is an upset on the cards?

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport