Wednesday 16 October 2019

Leinster need to appoint a Head Coach sooner rather than later - Brent Pope

Leo Cullen is set to replace Matt O’Connor as Leinster head coach
Leo Cullen is set to replace Matt O’Connor as Leinster head coach

Cormac Byrne

Leading rugby expert Brent Pope believes the delay in appointing a Head Coach at Leinster is hurting the province.

Reports have suggested that former skipper Leo Cullen has been offered a two-year deal to take up the role.

Initially promoted to interim boss on news of Matt O’Connor’s sacking, Cullen impressed through the interview process with his vision for the future.

The IRFU’s performance director, David Nucifora, has to rubberstamp the deal.

Girvan Dempsey is widely expected to take over the role of backs coach which he is currently doing on a temporary basis.

Brent Pope believes that the delay in announcing could have a negative knock-on impact on the province.

"It's a difficult time for them. You've got to have momentum and I think they have lost some of that by not appointing a coach," he told

"If it's to be Leo Cullen and Girvan Dempsey, then announce it sooner rather than later.

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"I do think that they need a big signing... coach-wise. They've had some pretty high profile guys before.

"Once they keep their key men, which they have done, and Jonny Sexton is coming back... and he'll wanna know who's coaching.

"Those top players need to know that they are going to continue to learn.

"It's important that you get that nailed down."

There was big news from Munster today with the signing of former Australian lock Mark Chisholm who joins from Bayonne.

Pope was impressed with the signing but believes that more big names need to arrive for the provinces to remain competitive.

Chisholm will be viewed as a replacement for Toulon-bound Paul O'Connell and Pope sees similarities between the pair.

"He's a similar type of player. Chisholm would be a big, broad-boned, physical player... has over 50 caps for Australia and then went on to Bayonne in France and that's a tough ask for any second row forward because they like to squeeze out every bit of juice out of their locks in France," he added.

"It's a good signing because he brings that ruggedness that Munster like and we need to see some high profile signing at Munster and Leinster... some of the signing s have worked and some of them haven't.

"It's a good move.

"To try and dominant like the Irish clubs have in the Champions Cup is going to be difficult because of the finances in the French game and it seems that after this World Cup there is a deluge of South Africans and New Zealanders coming.

"The Irish provinces have to stay competitive."

The Kiwi would love to see Ireland and New Zealand lock horns in the World Cup finale and believes it is not beyond the realms of possibility.

"South Africa have suddenly unearthed a marvellous young back-line. In previous World Cups, despite winning two, they have been quite one-dimensional," he said.

"New Zealand will still go into this World Cup as favourites, it will be interesting to see how they get on against the Wallabies (in the Bledisloe Cup on Saturday) because the Wallabies are my kind of dark horse.

"If Ireland top their group, they are probably going to meet someone like Argentina in the quarter-finals and Ireland could easily get to a semi-final and they could get to a final and they could win it.

"A New Zealand-Irish final would be a dream. I'm not telling you who I'd be cheering for but that would be a dream."

Brent Pope was speaking at the launch of a series of Live Rugby World Cup match corporate events to take place in the RDS to benefit the work of Haven, the leading Irish charity working on the ground in Haiti.

The panel, under the watchful eye of broadcaster and rugby pundit Tom McGurk, will inform and entertain the audience and those watching online via with their knowledge and expertise of the game prior to kick off, at half time and with post-match analysis as well as providing their views on Ireland’s prospects of becoming Rugby World Cup champions.

The shows are initially pencilling in five events to cover Ireland's four pool games against Romania, Canada, Italy and France and an expected quarter-final appearance in Cardiff.

Hook will be joined by close friend Brent Pope, Sky Sport's Rachel Wyse and comedian Risteard Cooper as well as a host of other guests.

For more information on table sales please visit A limited number of tables are still available for each event to enquire or make a booking please call (085) 8167345.

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