Bryn Cunningham hopes to steer Ulster back on steady course
Amid deepening crisis, operations manager will focus on rebuilding squad’s performance
Bryn Cunningham: “We have to try and start delivering a level of consistency week in, week out.” Photograph: Matt Mackey/Inpho
With both on- and off-field turbulence seemingly stalking Ulster Rugby’s every move, it fell to operations director Bryn Cunningham to try to re-route the northern province away from an ever-deepening crisis.
The misfiring squad go back to work on Friday evening when they host the struggling Southern Kings in the Pro14, but Cunningham first addressed the ongoing trial of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding on rape charges by reading from a prepared statement.
“From the very outset, Ulster Rugby has been very proactive and put in place necessary measures and protocols to deal with everything pre, during and post the trial,” said Cunningham. “Following the conclusion of the trial there will a full review done by Ulster Rugby and the IRFU.”
No further comment was made regarding last week’s appearance of Ireland captain Rory Best in the public gallery, but Cunningham did address the departure of Les Kiss, which also occurred last week, as director of rugby and pledged that the alarmingly under-achieving province would now embarking on a significant rebuild.
“Unfortunately, for a variety of different reasons things haven’t panned out the way he [Kiss] and everybody else hoped, so it’s the nature of professional rugby there are changes that happen and there’s change now.
“As far as we’re concerned it’s an opportunity [to] start from the foundations to build back up again.
“We have to try and start delivering a level of consistency week in, week out,” he added.
Regarding the lack of an obvious defence coach in the new Ulster structure, Cunningham revealed that Jared Payne – who is still not available to play – is assisting head coach Jono Gibbes regarding backline defence, while the IRFU would also have an input on a consultancy basis, and it is believed Andy Farrell has already worked with the squad.
A specific defence coach could be in place for next season, though.
After their ruinous Champions Cup exit at Wasps, Ulster badly need to produce a big performance against the Kings, and should have Craig Gilroy back from a fractured cheekbone.