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Press Pass: Blair on recruitment and rising to challenges

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On recruitment at the club

“The recruitment in Scottish rugby is more intricate than English rugby because we are owned by a common owner. We have a number of different people involved in the recruitment process.

“The bit I probably found a little bit harder was that period between Matt Cornwell leaving and Dave Bassett coming in [as Head of rugby Operations].

“That meant myself and Douglas Struth were more involved in the numbers side of things. The beauty of having Dave Bassett now is that he came up from Wasps and is a really experienced technician of recruitment.

“He understands the big picture, budgets, and it kind of means that we can say ‘these are the kind of guys we’re looking at – can you get them’.

“We obviously have input from upstairs as well. There is no ruling on how many overseas players you can have, but if you have three overseas nines then that is not going to work.

“Or they might suggest players through the data collection they do. For me it is something new but the support network around me helps to take the pressure off.”

 

On the challenges of the role

I was interested in the comments after the Glasgow game where I said I was finding the job a challenge – interested that that’s been taken as a negative.

“I don’t see a challenge as being a negative, I see it as being an opportunity to show what you can do. Me saying the job is a challenge is not a cry for help or anything.

This job is a challenge and we’ve got to do some work to get better. A challenge is a positive thing – it focuses the mind.

“I had a couple of messages from people to ask if I was okay. I told them that of course things are a challenge and had they tried being a Head coach. It’s not a negative thing, it’s a positive driver.”

 

On being reflective in the role

“The advice I’ve been given by people I respect is mainly around being true to myself. My authenticity is around energy and enthusiasm, having a smile on my face.

“At times it is difficult to do that because I get caught up in the detail of what I’m doing or the result.

“I’m becoming more and more conscious that I need to keep being authentic to how I am. That was aa big driver to our success last season – the confidence and belief.

“I still have that 100 percent but I need to keep projecting it so the players see it and everyone else sees it as well.

“I did manage to switch off at New Year. It’s a work-on. On Saturday I managed to not open my laptop at all. I wanted to enjoy time with the family. On Sunday I was right back in it.”

 

On players returning from injury

“We’re hopeful that Dave Cherry will be back. He did a full week of training last week and got through today OK, so he’s back in available for selection. Adam McBurney won’t be far off – he’s cut a bit of time off his original rehab.

“This has been a tough block and a really testing and challenging block – challenging in a positive way. We’re getting to see our players against quality opposition and we’re having to deal with some adversity as well.

“This is good for the group. Things have come out this week that, had we scraped a win, we might not have addressed them. And I believe that for the long-term growth of the group, things that have come out this week have been really important.”

 

On reflecting as a playing group

“I’d say we’re a pretty honest group anyway. It certainly wasn’t a crisis meeting, it was looking at our game and saying ‘What are we comfortable with?’ And we’re comfortable with a huge amount of our game.

“But there are little, two-, three-percenters that are preventing us from winning the game. We said every game since the autumn we could and should have won.

“That’s been against really strong opposition, so we’re doing a lot of stuff right, and we’re just looking at a little bit of the detail of what we can get better. A lot of that is around ourselves, and individual prep and expectations.”

Content & Images from – Edinburgh Rugby


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Connacht squad to face Emirates Lions named

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The Connacht management team have named the matchday 23 for tomorrow’s BKT United Rugby Championship tie with the Emirates Lions at The Sportsground (k/o 7.35pm)
 
Having missed last week’s trip to Newcastle through injury, Jack Carty returns to captain the side. The out-half could make history in the game – he needs six points to equal Eric Elwood’s all-time points scoring record of 1152 points for the province.
 
Scrum-half Caolin Blade is named alongside him while Cathal Forde and Tom Farrell are named at inside and outside-centre respectively. Tiernan O’Halloran lines out at full back for his 215th Connacht appearance with John Porch and Diarmuid Kilgallen on the wings.
 
The pack sees the Murray brothers Darragh and Niall paired together in the second row, while props Peter Dooley and Jack Aungier come in alongside hooker Shane Delahunt. Josh Murphy moves from the second row to blindside flanker, while Conor Oliver and Jarrad Butler are retained at 7 and 8.
 
Commenting on the team selection, Director of Rugby Andy Friend says:
 
“Tomorrow marks the end of a long block of games for us and one we want to finish on a high. If we get the win we head into the next block well in the running for a playoff spot – while achieving our aim of reaching the Challenge Cup knockouts – so it’s not a bad spot to be in.
 
We’re fully aware however that we need a win tomorrow to put ourselves in that position. The Lions are a formidable outfit and have improved even more since their first season last year, so we know a difficult challenge awaits us.”

 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS EMIRATES LIONS
Saturday 28th January, 19:35 @ The Sportsground

Number/Name/Caps
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (214)
14. Diarmuid Kilgallen (12)
13. Tom Farrell (90)
12. Cathal Forde (7)
11. John Porch (72)
10. Jack Carty (190) (C)
9. Caolin Blade (161)
1. Peter Dooley (12)
2. Shane Delahunt (124)
3. Jack Aungier (43)
4. Darragh Murray (5)
5. Niall Murray (47)
6. Josh Murphy (11)
7. Conor Oliver (54)
8. Jarrad Butler (107)

16. Dylan Tierney-Martin (15)
17. Jordan Duggan (34)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (76)
19. Leva Fifita (22)
20. Shamus Hurley-Langton (12)
21. Kieran Marmion (222)
22. Tom Daly (71)
23. Oran McNulty (12)

Images & Content from – Connacht Rugby


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New Role for Ian Costello

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Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm that Academy and Pathway Manager Ian Costello will assume the newly created role of Head of Rugby Operations at the end of this season.

Costello will take on further responsibility in an all-encompassing Head of Rugby Operations role that will oversee the long-term strategic development of the elite player pathway, succession planning, and provide recruitment support for developing, retaining, and recruiting players in conjunction with the Head Coach.

Commenting on the appointment, Munster Rugby CEO Ian Flanagan said, “We are delighted that Ian will step into this newly created role.

“This has been a work in progress in the background for some time as we look to align our resource support with the IRFU and other provinces.

“When Ian returned to the province as Academy Manager he was identified as the ideal candidate for this role when incorporating his previous coaching experience, managerial skill-set, and strategic abilities for aligning and developing our player pathway.”

Head Coach Graham Rowntree added, “I’m delighted to have someone of Cossie’s calibre (Ian Costello) taking on this role.

“We work very closely as it is through his academy role, and from my own personal point of view it has been a really positive working relationship. Ian and his academy team play a key role in everything we are trying to achieve each week.

“It’s great to have a dedicated resource to driving long-term succession planning and coordinate recruitment operations, and I believe it will be of huge benefit to not only me and our coaching team, but to Munster Rugby.”

Images & Content from Munster Rugby


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Smith, Goosen combine as Jacobs returns ahead of Scarlets outing

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The Vodacom Bulls have announced their matchday squad for round 13 of the 2022/23 Vodacom United Rugby Championship against Scarlets in Llanelli, Wales. The herd will see Chris Smith and Johan Goosen start, with Stravino Jacobs and Jan-Hendrick Wessels returning to the matchday 23.

Ruan Nortje (lock) returns to lead the side which sees Gerhard Steenekamp, Johann Grobbelaar and Mornay Smith combine as the front-row trio, with Ruan Vermaak joining his skipper in the second row. The back row will have Marco van Staden, Cyle Brink and Elrigh Louw adding power to the forwards pack. In the backline, Springbok duo Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie have been given rest which sees Stravino Jacobs return to left-wing whilst Johan Goosen slots in at fullback with Zak burger at scrumhalf. Harold Vorster and Lionel Mapoe combine as the centre pairing with David Kriel slotting in at right wing.

The Pretoria outfit will have Jan-Hendrick Wessels, Simphiwe Matanzima, Francois Klopper, Janko Swanepoel, Nizaam Carr, Embrose Papier, Cornal Hendricks and Wandisile Simelane ready to come on from the bench.

This will be the second time the two sides meet and the Welsh side are looking to bounce back from back-to-back league defeats whilst the visiting Vodacom Bulls will be looking to make it two wins from two in the competition.

Chris Rossouw – Vodacom Bulls Backline coach – said the combination of Smith and Goosen allows the side to exploit the double-kicking options. Rossouw also highlighted the importance of confidence going into the fixture against a Scarlets side with balance and confidence.

“Looking over the last month, I think we are high in the confidence bar last week. Against the Dragons, at the back of the Stormers and the Sharks, the guys bounced back and they were great on the evening in how they managed the game with great energy and confidence. We obviously took that to Exeter and last week we slipped but I thought it was a great learning curve for many of us who were in France for the first time,”

“We all know Scarlets are on high at the moment, but saying that, there is nice energy at our camp and it’s almost like a change of season for us as well,”

“Confidence will be important but obviously execution and being clinical on the night will be more important.”

Rossouw went on to say: “Scarlets are known as a team that attacks a lot. What they have done over the last two months is to find a balance between their attacking and kicking game, and how we manage that will be crucial for us and make sure we do not get pinned in our own half,”

“They have a great pack of forwards and an experienced backline, that remains one of their strengths so it is important for us to manage the kicking game as a whole,”

Asked about physicality and managing that against Scarlets, the backline coach responded: “We all know it starts there, we will need to be physical and look to dominate the collisions to have any momentum. For us it will be one of the focus points. We know they have some good runners and we also know their big boys have the ability to offload in tackles, so we need to make sure we identify those and look to limit those opportunities through our tackle techniques,”

“We will need to bring the physicality that we know the South African boys can bring” he concluded.

The fixture at Parc y Scarlets stadium will kick-off at 21h35pm (South African time) and will be broadcast LIVE on SuperSport Rugby.

VODACOM BULLS STARTING XV: 1. Gerhard Steenekamp, 2. Johann Grobbelaar, 3. Mornay Smith, 4. Ruan Vermaak, 5. Ruan Nortje (c), 6. Marco van Staden, 7. Cyle Brink, 8. Elrigh Louw, 9. Zak Burger, 10. Chris Smith, 11.Stravino Jacobs, 12. Harold Vorster, 13. Lionel Mapoe, 14. David Kriel, 15. Johan Goosen

VODACOM BULLS IMPACT SQUAD: 16. Jan-Hendrick Wessels, 17. Simphiwe Matanzima, 18. Francois Klopper, 19. Janko Swanepoel, 20. Nizaam Carr, 21. Embrose Papier, 22. Cornal Hendricks, 23. Wandisile Simelane

MANAGEMENT: Jake White – Director of Rugby, Nollis Marais – Breakdown, Russell Winter – Forwards, Chris Rossouw – Backs, Werner Kruger – Scrum Coach, Pine Pienaar – Defense Coach, Andre Volsteedt – Strength & Conditioning, John-William Meyer – Technical Analyst, Dr Herman Rossouw – Team Doctor, Lance Lemmetjies – Senior Physiotherapist, Kyle Mayer – Physiotherapist, Elias Bennett – Team Manager, Simon Dyidi – Logistics Manager

Content & Images from – Vodacom Bulls Rugby


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