Matt O’Connor happy to embrace the Leinster ethos
Australian looking forward to the challenge of adding to the province’s recent successes
Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor: said that no decision had been made on the team’s captaincy. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Matt O’Connor knows that a practical examination of his credentials when the new season begins in a couple of weeks will be considerably more exacting than polite inquiries about his coaching philosophy and initial impressions of his role as Leinster’s new head coach.
The 42-year-old Australian has been in situ since July 1st and on Monday welcomed back the stragglers; those that had been on duty with the Lions in Australia. He’s had a little time to appraise his new surroundings, the playing personnel and coaching staff as well as the bricks and mortar of a new town.
It wouldn’t have been an alien environment as O’Connor has been at the Leicester Tigers since 2008, first as backs’ coach and then working in tandem with the club’s director of rugby Richard Cockerill from 2010.
He knows Leinster and their ways. He also realises that his predecessor at the helm of the Irish province Joe Schmidt casts a long shadow as a coach and a man. Schmidt’s achievements are spectacular no matter what the preferred yardstick. O’Connor won’t dwell on the perceptions of others because it’s a waste of time.
The Schmidt era has ended, the O’Connor one begins; he has control over just one. He has an impressive pedigree too, coming with a reputation as a very good analyst, innovative in approach and receptive to the claims of young players who prove their worth. He’s not fussy about what it says on the birth certificate.
So to coin an Irish expression, has he talked to Joe? “Yeah, we had a day at Carton House with all the coaches a couple of weeks ago, with Joe (Schmidt) trying to get us all on the same page and making sure there is that really high level of communication across the provinces from the IRFU. I think it will be a positive relationship; certainly it is shaping up to be that way.”
He understands that managing transition is a fundamental tenet. He admitted: “We need to try and find that next tier of guys to fill the void that has been left by some really quality players. That is going to be an ongoing issue for the group.
“If you look at the senior guys who are going to be moving on in the next 12-24 months, there is going to be some significant changes. So it is trying to make sure that next tier have the necessary skills and understand the standard that goes with wearing the Leinster shirt.”