Leinster boss Leo Cullen feels defence coach Sean O’Brien will benefit most from the arrival of South Africa’s Rugby World Cup-winning coach Jacques Nienaber.
Nienaber has finally linked up with his new club almost a month after he guided the Springboks to yet another World Cup title as the team became the first country to win it four times.
The South African defence guru takes up a role as senior coach with the Irish club, filling the void left by Stuart Lancaster who departed for a director of rugby role with Racing 92.
Within the Leinster camp, there is much excitement to see what the players and coaches could learn from Nienaber and Cullen believes O’Brien’s strong start to his new role will only be further supported.
“Seanie’s been excellent. He’s stepping into the role,” said Cullen. “He’s a brilliant character, so we’re very lucky to have him. He’s starting his journey as a defence coach and it’s been a great experience for him, in that role as contact skills.
“We’re all hoping to learn from Jacques when he comes in and Seánie will be someone who will grow a lot with his presence. It’s about refining what we do and getting better.”
Leinster come off a derby win over Munster where they downed their foes 21-16 at a loaded Aviva Stadium. In the tight clash, starting fly-half Ross Byrne was forced off in the first 10 minutes with Ciaran Frawley replacing him.
The versatile star put in a measured performance and showed how much value he adds to the squad.
“It’s that bit of versatility that he has, because he’s a really good broken-field runner as well and he’s a great striker of the ball,” said Cullen.
“He’s a very important player for us, and we wanted to see him step in there and that’s the way it played out so I’m glad he went well.
“We’re open-minded about a lot of guys all the way through the season, but rugby is a team game as well and you need guys who are willing to step in and do what’s best for the team. It’s a real point of difference for him in many ways. He’s a seriously good, versatile player for us.”
Change of guard
Meanwhile, United Rugby Championship holders Munster have some leadership changes to handle with Peter O’Mahony stepping away from his role as captain.
Head coach Graham Rowntree respects the Irishman’s decision but will not be rushing to name his replacement.
“I respect his decision. He’s been great for this club, an icon of this club,” Rowntree said.
“Who that captain will be, we will name in due course. I’m not being rushed into that. We’ve got a strong leadership group which he will still be part of, and will drive on.”