Robin McBryde was a vital cog in Warren Gatland’s Wales back-room team for 12 years. In that time Wales won four Six Nations titles and reached two World Cup semi-finals. Now, the former Scarlets hooker is in charge of Leinster’s forwards and chats to Steffan Thomas about his new life in the Irish capital.
Welsh fans have long looked over the Irish sea with envy at the success their Celtic cousins have enjoyed at provincial level. Irish provinces have won seven European cups between them, with Wales still waiting for their first Champions Cup winner 24 years after the game went professional.
And Leinster forwards coach Robin McBryde believes Wales needs to invest in homegrown coaches if they want to taste success at regional level. The former Scarlets hooker joined Leinster at the end of last year’s World Cup after a hugely successful tenure in charge of Wales’ pack under Warren Gatland.
His move across the Irish Sea is proving to be just as prosperous with Leinster set to face Saracens in this weekend’s Champions Cup quarter-final after thumping Ulster on Saturday to retain their Guinness PRO14 crown. “One of the big things I see at Leinster is we have Leo Cullen at the top of the tree,” said McBryde.
“He’s more than a figurehead. He’s still hands on coaching, but one thing he is very mindful of and what he does very well is drive the legacy of Leinster. When you’ve got an ex-player and someone of his experience as the head of the province, the supporters can identify with Leo and Leinster.
“It reminds me a lot of the time when Gareth Jenkins coached Llanelli. Gareth would always remind us of who we were representing. After a cup final the first place the bus would stop would be the supporters’ bar.
“If you’re able to have somebody of that ilk it certainly adds something to it. If you’ve got somebody who is linked to the region it all helps with building the legacy and tradition. It’s important to know where you come from and when it comes down to it on the rugby field, those small little things become absolutely massive.
“To get Welsh coaches into head coach jobs and to have someone people can identify with would be great. I don’t say that with any disrespect to other coaches. Everybody has something to offer. “Welsh rugby needs four successful regions.”
There is no Welsh head coach currently in charge of the country’s four regions and none of them reached the Guinness PRO14 or Champions Cup knock-out stages. “Leinster have a very strong school system,” McBryde said. “I’m not saying the situation is unique, but there are certain things in place already with the quality of rugby which is played at those schools. The players are further down the line when they come out of school.”
I can’t help noticing how the media praise and name Gatland, Howley and Shaun Edwards (and they deserve it, absolute legends!!) but what about Robin McBryde???!! They all say “games are won or lost upfront” Robin has been Wales forward coach for 13 years!! #morerecognitionplease pic.twitter.com/lmxzWG3vob
— Rhys Meirion (@RhysMeirion) March 18, 2019
McBryde has had no contact from former boss Gatland about coaching with the British & Irish Lions for the first time in South Africa this summer. So, what about returning to Wales one day to head up a region?
McBryde said: “I think I’ll always like to be hands-on. It’s not a burning ambition. If the opportunity comes along my way then great, but I think you have to be lucky and be in the right place at the right time because there aren’t many coaching jobs around – especially in the current climate.
“I’m just enjoying my time here and not looking too far ahead. I’ve been in the right place at the right time up to now, so hopefully that will continue. In some ways it has been nice to come out of that Welsh bubble, but looking back it was a massive honour for me to coach Wales. The best job in Welsh rugby is to be coaching the national team.
“I can look back and be proud of what we achieved and it never got to that stage that I was talking to Welsh regions. I had an early contact from Leo, followed up by a phone call, and then a visit.
“I was very honoured to have been asked to coach Leinster. It was an easy decision and I didn’t have to think long about it.”