Robin McBryde backs Denis Leamy to bring passion and knowledge to Leinster role

Former Munster player to take over as senior squad’s contact skills coach

Former Munster backrow Denis Leamy has taken over as Leinster’s contact skills coach. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

By all accounts, such has been the impression made by Denis Leamy in Leinster since 2019 as an elite player development officer and also in the interviewing process for the vacant role as the senior squad's contact skills coach, that he was a veritable shoo-in to replace Hugh Hogan.

A “thrilled” Leamy said: “It is an honour for me to be to be working with one of Europe’s premier clubs.”

Robin McBryde, the Leinster forwards coach, hailed the appointment as “brilliant”, adding: “He’s coming from a background of vast experience and success as well, so he’s already got that in his armoury.”

Indeed, Leamy represented Munster 144 times before being forced to retire at the age of 30 due to a hip injury, playing in both the 2006 and 2008 Heineken Cup finals. Also capped 57 times by Ireland, he was twice a Triple Crown winner and part of the 2009 Grand Slam.


“He’s presented on a couple of occasions already now,” said McBryde. “The messages have been very clear, delivered with a passion as well as the knowledge that he’s got. The pictures he’s been showing are very good. I’m really looking forward to working alongside Denis and learning from him.”

It’s unusual for a playing legend from one province ending up on their fiercest rivals’ coaching ticket, but McBryde was not aware of any slagging coming Leamy’s way.

“I haven’t been party to it if there has been. Probably behind his back, they wouldn’t do it to his face,” he said, smiling.

“There’s not that many opportunities to coach a top-flight team anywhere in the world anymore so when the opportunity comes you’ve got to grasp it really, and you’ve got to put your allegiances to one side. I don’t think anyone would turn it down.”

Robin McBryde believes Cian Healy could play for Ireland in the next Rugby World Cup. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

After Leinster’s unusually profligate and inaccurate display in Sunday’s 7-6 win over the Dragons, Leinster’s coaches are surely the only people compelled or even remotely inclined to watch the game over again.

“We made it hard for ourselves by not going two scores ahead, really. As long as we stayed seven points in front of them, then it gave them something to aim for, really,” admitted McBryde.

“But it’s a taste of what’s to come, because there are no games during the autumn internationals. We’re playing everyone at their strongest. So we’ve got to get used to it and make sure that we’re aware of the threat that we pose to other teams as well. They’re going to treat it as a cup final and they’re going to come after us.”

The redeeming features were largely in McBryde's domain, be it Andrew Porter reverting to loosehead, Cian Healy switching to tighthead, and new signing Michael Ala'alatoa.

McBryde expressed himself “really happy” with Porter. “He’s still learning, obviously, even though he’s had exposure previously on the loosehead. It doesn’t come natural, but the more time that he spends there I think the better he will get.”

The benefits of having two props who can pack down on both sides of the scrum could also benefit Ireland.

“When you look at the next World Cup, which is only two years away, if you’ve got a couple of props who can cover both sides of the scrum, it means you can maybe have an extra member in your 31-man squad and that’s gold really,” said the former Wales forwards coach.

Healy, who turns 34 on Thursday, has won scrum penalties in both of his cameos at tighthead and McBryde sees no reason why the 109-times capped prop cannot play through to the World Cup, albeit moving from loosehead to tighthead is tougher than vice versa.

“As a hooker I would find it easier to move across to the tighthead, where I played a couple of games, than to loosehead. That was just down to technique. You got weight on both shoulders as a hooker, similar as a tighthead.

“As a loosehead you can choose how hard you want to work. That’s what they always say with regard to taking the easy way out and scrummage on the outside a little bit more. The tighthead is the one that’s targeted by the opposition, so you’ve got to be able to withstand that pressure. There’s no getting away from it.”

The ties between the Crusaders and Leinster – McBryde has maintained contact with their forwards coach Jason Ryan – have been helpful in Ala’alatoa’s assimilation.

“It’s a bit different scrummaging in the northern hemisphere, so he’s adapting to it. But he’s got all that knowledge of being in the Crusaders squad, the best club team in the world you could argue. So a lot of the things that he is bringing with him are very relevant to us in Leinster.”

McBryde also expressed satisfaction with Dan Sheahan’s first two outings at hooker, especially his work at scrum and lineout time.

“He didn’t get all his decisions right in the first game, where he lost the ball a couple of times in contact, trying an offload, but you don’t want to take that out of him either. You just want him to make better decisions, better judgments at that time. With experience, that will come.”

The fit again Jordan Larmour, Tommy O’Brien and Harry Byrne are all in line for potential seasonal returns when Leinster host Zebre at the RDS on Saturday (kick-off 1pm), although Rory O’Loughlin’s ankle injury has ruled him out.

Leinster will be allowed to accommodate 75 per cent of the 18,500 RDS capacity but given the tv-dictated kick-off of 1pm and a full AIL programme, a permitted 13,875 attendance looks unlikely anyway.