Where did it all go wrong?

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Where did it all go wrong?

Postby Rooster » Sun May 14, 2017 11:51 pm

Best newspaper article on Ulster rugby for years, well done Mr Fanning :salut:
Where did it all go wrong?
Uncertainty once again cloaks the future of Ulster rugby - despite all the positive words


Brendan Fanning

May 14 2017 5:00 PM


"In the future, the dream ticket for Ulster is that we are the world's best and people are coming here from around the world to see how we do it. Also that we are thriving in our clubs and schools, that the Ulster side is winning trophies, that our coaches and players are in demand in New Zealand and Australia and that we are recognised as doing things the best way - and also in a straight, honest and enduring manner."

Shane Logan, Ulster CEO, February 2015



On an October night in 2010 we ended up as the sole southern representative at a table of Ulster hacks. It was in Biarritz, balmy enough, and despite the second-half collapse of their team earlier that day the group was lively and upbeat. Change was underway, for the better. After a long road with no turn, they could see good times around the corner.

We got to discussing the relative merits of the provinces, and, given that Munster and Leinster between them had picked up three of the previous five Heineken Cups, you could see what direction the conversation was going. At one point a colleague arrested it to make plain something he felt needed clarifying.

"It's all very fine for you in Dublin writing from a distance about Munster and Leinster and Ulster," he said. "But this is our team. These guys represent who we are!"

It stayed with us, that line, for while the Brave and the Faithful were dominating the fan-zones of Europe they were a recent phenomenon. Ulster's politics would always mean that the bond between team and supporters - by extension those who wrote about them - would be a longer and closer affair.

So we observed with interest the scene last weekend in Kingspan Stadium as Ulster's season ended prematurely, again. On the surface the full house waved cheerfully and clapped as their hero, Ruan Pienaar, signed off his last competitive game in a winning performance against Leinster.

Barely below that surface, however, was a level of discontent among the fans that has been matched within the squad. Its epicentre was the coaching staff, two of whom, Neil Doak and Allen Clarke, were, like Pienaar, on their last lap.

From all sources we spoke to last week the relationship between director of rugby Les Kiss, Doak and Clarke was dysfunctional. 'Toxic' was a word used by three separate people to describe the atmosphere in the Ulster camp. Clarke's unpopularity with the players was seemingly widespread. Sources close to the centre say he didn't get on with Doak, and that Doak in turn couldn't operate under Kiss, who he felt was invading his space on the field. That may have been because Kiss, as the boss, wanted to mark his own territory, and was not enamoured of Doak's reaction to the shift in power. Either way the dynamic was awful, and badly managed.

The circumstances in which these three men were thrown together are themselves reflective of an operation running up its own backside.

You could say the decline started after Ulster fell asleep at the wheel in the wake of the European Cup win in 1999. Or you could choose a point almost eight seasons later when Mark McCall resigned, a season and a half after delivering the province's only Celtic League title. Perhaps the stripes he got on his back during that three and a half years in charge in Ravenhill have shaped the highly successful coach he is today, but certainly they looked painful at the time. The vitriol that attended his demise illustrated a fan-base with crazy expectations from an organisation who weren't tooled up to deliver.

Thereafter Ulster roller-coasted, with the lows more memorable than the highs. The constant themes have been the power of the dressing-room, whose influence was greater off the pitch than on it, and the poor choices made in the boardroom.

The nadir has a place on YouTube, albeit with a surprisingly low hit-rate. In February 2012 then operations director David Humphreys faced the press to explain why coach Brian McLaughlin was being shunted sideways into the Academy. McLaughlin was in his third season in a job he had been given in unusual circumstances.

Since McCall's departure Ulster had, after caretaker coach Steve Williams, been through 17 months of Matt Williams. They wanted someone to settle a listing ship. McLaughlin had a long career behind him as a schools coach, had worked as a skills coach with Eddie O'Sullivan's Ireland set-up, and was Ulster through and through. Humphreys thought he would be ideal to give the young Ulster squad some direction. For how long, though, was a different matter.

To give McLaughlin some comfort for abandoning his school gig in RBAI for the capricious world of pro sport, the sweetener was a guaranteed place somewhere in the Ulster set-up when the natural life of the senior coaching role expired. Agreeing what was natural was another issue.

Having drawn blanks at the business end of Europe ever since they won it in '99, McLaughlin had overseen back-to-back qualification for the knock-outs. The natives were more than bullish. But some powerful voices in the dressing-room reckoned he wasn't the man to complete the job, and Humphreys evidently agreed. The press conference to announce the shift was Punch and Judy without the contact.

To compound the public relations disaster, Ulster turned to Mark Anscombe as his successor. A self-styled straight shooter, the New Zealander must have winged a few of the wrong cowboys in the dressing-room, because they cut him short as well. Oh, almost forgot: Humphreys, who had recruited Anscombe, jumped ship to Gloucester in June 2014. He had barely got his feet under the desk at Kingsholm when Anscombe got shafted back in Belfast.

That's where Les Kiss came in. Showing a sharp eye for a gap, Ulster wedged themselves into the space between Kiss and his duties as Ireland defence coach. It was seen at the time as a coup, for Kiss is highly regarded. Initially he left assistants Doak, Clarke and Jonny Bell in charge while he served out his time with Ireland, and looked in on Ulster. As soon as the World Cup was over, Kiss rode north in earnest. A new era began.

It is unclear exactly when the relationship began to sour. The lads had enjoyed the freedom of the gaff when Kiss was in absentee landlord mode, and Ulster were competitive without picking up anything to show for it. The next season was more of the same: good in Europe without being good enough, and invited to the end-of-season party in the PRO12, but not asked to stay over.

This season, however, was a studied exercise in failure. Hobbled by a freakish number of injuries, especially up front, gradually the waft of internal unrest began to spread. When it was announced that Clarke and Doak would be moving on, there was a mixture of relief and disappointment among those close to the scene: glad the charade was coming to an end, and certainly in Doak's case sad that a coach with a lot to offer was no longer wanted. Clarke will be with the Ospreys next season; Doak will, initially at any rate, coach in Queen's University.

Kiss in the meantime will be picking up the pieces, knowing that if they fall again he won't get a chance to explain. It helps that neither of his new wingmen, Jono Gibbes and Dwayne Peel, have any connection with the province. So no history, no baggage. But both should be aware of the scale of the task: they will inherit a squad short of forward power but big on passing the buck. The best player, Pienaar, is en route to France, and there is no queue of local lads looking for his shirt.

At that press conference in 2012 to shift McLaughlin sideways, Humphreys explained it as a knock-on effect of IRFU policy. Head office, he said, were demanding optimum performance from Ulster's Academy. The pressure was hot to increase the crop of home-growns, and McLaughlin was the man to do that. McLaughlin left a year later. And despite all the moaning over Pienaar being exiled from Ulster, there are still great big gaps where the young players are supposed to be. No sign of the bus-loads rolling up to Ravenhill to learn the Ulster Way, either.

On Friday evening, Shane Logan issued the following statement: "There's no doubt that it has been a hugely frustrating season for us but I believe the pillars of success are in place at Ulster Rugby. We have a loyal supporter base, excellent facilities, a talented playing squad, an improving Academy programme and a strong management/back-room team. This will all contribute to the long-term and sustainable future of Ulster Rugby."

Sunday Indo Sport
“That made me feel very special and underlined to me that Ulster is more than a team, it is a community and a rugby family"
Rory Best
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Re: Where did it all go wrong?

Postby BaggyTrousers » Mon May 15, 2017 12:22 am

An excellent, and as accurate as you're ever likely to be told, summation of the Good Ship Disaster Ulster. He starts and finishes with nonsensical quotes from The Dear Leader. In some respects what lies in between is irrelevant, he has nailed amongst the biggest problems, the organisation is being led by a man with good intentions but only a passing grasp of rugby reality.

He accurately details the appalling nonsense of three men supposed to be working together but who either cannot or will not. It was instructive that in his parting comments Doak said the last 18 months had been difficult. I understand that to be the exact period in which FOLK had effectively sidelined Doak, before at a later date deciding he was pretty well equipped himself to take on the forwards himself and did the same with Clarke.

Nothing more needs saying about the coaching set up as was, what is to come is another story and I see nothing but tears and snotters unless F uck Off Les Kiss is ejected before Christmas at the latest, he'll almost certainly have screwed up the season by then unless Gibbes truly is the son of god.

Where I take umbrage with Fanning is like a good little D4 press boy, he doesn;t even start to take a big stick to the FIRFU for their key role in the shambles. He underplays and makes no genuine comment about Ruan vis-a-vis what happened with Nacewa at Leinster, neither does he mention the part in the season's downfall by FIRFU main dickhead Nucifora not allowing a replacement for Coetzee and again, no mention of markedly different treatment at Munster.

So all in all, not a bad effort. In the best traditions of the Dublin Meejah I'm scoring his effort at 6.5 out of 10.

#deathtoNucifora
#FIRFU
#FOLK
BOYCOTT ALL IRELAND GAMES UNTIL THEY SACK THE TYRANT NUCIFORA.

PASS IT ON - THIS MEANS WAR.
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Re: Where did it all go wrong?

Postby Kofi Annan » Mon May 15, 2017 8:00 am

The last paragraph is interesting way to finish,


On Friday evening, Shane Logan issued the following statement: "There's no doubt that it has been a hugely frustrating season for us but I believe the pillars of success are in place at Ulster Rugby. We have a loyal supporter base, excellent facilities, a talented playing squad, an improving Academy programme and a strong management/back-room team. This will all contribute to the long-term and sustainable future of Ulster Rugby


Another eve of battle speech by the supreme commander, however I think the good Mr Fanning has highlighted it , same as his first paragraph , let's see where this goes.

Baggy old chap, we did not get a replacement for Coetzee as we had an international back row quality player in Reidy. Fanning now smells the bullshit, and I hope he keeps an eye on the Mediorce house in the hill.

Met up with some diehard Ulster fans at the weekend, these are guys who have travelled Europe with the team before it became a fashionable thing to do, guys who went to Edinburgh for Cup final this year, guys who are out and out loyal club men to their own clubs, none will be renewing season tickets this year, yes they will go to games when it suits them, most likely not home games they are still Ulster supporters at heart, but that heart has taking a bashing and some faith in the set up has been lost.

Me, i will go when I have nothing better to do, can't stand the falseness that is now Kingspan theatre of wet dreams, I will be bookings flights and tickets for next years European cup final in Spain, but I will do with full knowledge that we Ulster won't be there. I suspect there will be more like me going, not to support Ulster as they wont be there but to support the game of Rugby, Colonel , plastic works for Saracens as they have the money , Passion, Commitment, loyalty and the real Ulster way works for Ulster, you have helped destroy it, I know you won't go until we either get or not get the RWC2023, then your CV is boosted, personally I hope Ireland does not get it, as folklore will always say, It was all done by yerself singlehandedly with SLR bayonet gritted between yer teeth .

Rugby is over for another year, I have no interest in the lions this year, ones Gazebo needs some remedial work done, so gonna concentrate on that, updates will be available , http://www.kofisgazeborebuild.ie
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Re: Where did it all go wrong?

Postby BaggyTrousers » Mon May 15, 2017 10:28 am

Kofi Annan wrote:
Baggy old chap, we did not get a replacement for Coetzee as we had an international back row quality player in Reidy.


Well, I have to say that comes as a surprise Kofi, given who told me that they had and had been slapped down, but hey ho.

Good luck with the Gazebo. :thumleft:
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Re: Where did it all go wrong?

Postby HammerTime » Mon May 15, 2017 11:05 am

Wondered whether that Leinster match would gloss over the cracks and allow the powers at be a quiet exit into the summer. All that was stated in the piece is widely known but when you see it summed up in one it really shows the clusterfuk of an organisation UR is and will continue to be. Those in Dublin voice a rare concern but they're more than happy to see it ongoing especially as the big crowds still go to support. I want to see one of those question time things they have now and again with the fans and a few skulls cracked with Kiss and especially Logan to tell us wtf they are actually doing for their big salaries. As fans, we're all too nice. Read Luke Marshall in the Bel Tel during the week about how the support is amazing bla bla bla. Fk away off.
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Re: Where did it all go wrong?

Postby Kofi Annan » Mon May 15, 2017 11:09 am

BaggyTrousers wrote:
Kofi Annan wrote:
Baggy old chap, we did not get a replacement for Coetzee as we had an international back row quality player in Reidy.


Well, I have to say that comes as a surprise Kofi, given who told me that they had and had been slapped down, but hey ho.

Good luck with the Gazebo. :thumleft:


Slightly tongue in cheek old chap, the slap down was justified in saying Reidy was now an international replacement, so basically told to feck up and move on .
“I’m reasonably clear what the end point is, but I need to understand the start point in order to be more definitive as to how long it’s going to take to get there"
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Re: Where did it all go wrong?

Postby HwoodMike2umate » Mon May 15, 2017 12:33 pm

Rather odd that no-one is blaming Trevor Brennan.
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Re: Where did it all go wrong?

Postby Rooster » Mon May 15, 2017 12:49 pm

Perhaps Logie should lower his standard and get us to top of the PRO12 before he takes on Europe and the world, both of which are total dreamworld as the IRFU system will not allow it to happen both financially and player wise.
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Re: Where did it all go wrong?

Postby BaggyTrousers » Mon May 15, 2017 1:10 pm

I was amused that he wanted to take our players would be sought after in NZ & OZ ........................ I mean FFFS does he expect them to take a pay cut to move to the antipodes. :duh:

I think Cliff Clavin on Beer makes more sense.
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Then again maybe Fit made the pronouncements after a few beers. :D
BOYCOTT ALL IRELAND GAMES UNTIL THEY SACK THE TYRANT NUCIFORA.

PASS IT ON - THIS MEANS WAR.
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Re: Where did it all go wrong?

Postby Russ » Mon May 15, 2017 1:16 pm

James Haskell took his youchube channel to NZ

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Re: Where did it all go wrong?

Postby bazzaj » Mon May 15, 2017 2:46 pm

Where it went wrong on field this season was summed up in two games.
Bordeaux away in Europe was a textbook example of losing the plot and Muster away where there was the worst example of a manufacturing of a drop goal you will ever likely to see at the death.
Both matches we outplayed the oppositon.
Both effectively ended our European and domestic adventures.

In summary we lack the smarts and look over complicated and confused which reflects our off field leadership as much as anything.

I hope the new coaches bring a return to simplicity which is nailing the basics with intensity.
We overcomplicate plays. running several options so noone seems to know who is getting the ball.

Reduce that, get recievers running hard lines at gaps with support runners on shoulders.
If the one thing Gibbes does is eradicate static runners we'll be halfway there.

Get an aggressive noone passive rush defence rather than standing off and reacting.
We were owned by sides this season due to that reason.

New Zealand are masters at doing the basics well and I hope that will filter down to our mob.
Kiss's biggest failing is over thinking.
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Re: Where did it all go wrong?

Postby Hapax Legomenon » Mon May 15, 2017 4:20 pm

Someone needs to sit down with Logan and say "Shane me old mucker, you are a total dickhead and every time you open your mouth, more people become aware of that fact. Why don't you just make sure the bills are paid and the bins left out on the correct days? That's your level. So no more speeches, press releases or patronising bullshit to the supporters. Now are we clear Shane? Good man, now feck off back to your office, looking at you makes me mildly nauseous."
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Re: Where did it all go wrong?

Postby Dave » Mon May 15, 2017 4:24 pm

Hapax Legomenon wrote:Someone needs to sit down with Logan and say "Shane me old mucker, you are a total dickhead and every time you open your mouth, more people become aware of that fact. Why don't you just make sure the bills are paid and the bins left out on the correct days? That's your level. So no more speeches, press releases or patronising bullshit to the supporters. Now are we clear Shane? Good man, now feck off back to your office, looking at you makes me mildly nauseous."

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Re: Where did it all go wrong?

Postby Snipe Watson » Mon May 15, 2017 4:36 pm

Gratifying to see a press report that calls a spade a spade and gives more authority to and reflects what we've been thinking and saying.
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Re: Where did it all go wrong?

Postby rumncoke » Mon May 15, 2017 5:20 pm

I see nothing incisive in a the history that identifies the problems it rather skates round the problems. Nor does the article identify the solution .

While Ulster have a Branch CEO who is all hope and has the ability to be so remote from coal face to avoid all responsibility his uttering are meaningless .

it is a typical piece of denial by Dublin who have always been envious of the Fact that Ulster were the first Irish side to win the ERC and fill Lansdowne Road winning it .

The failure to kick on from that win had as its base the fact that Ulster were had problems not faced Leinster which was based round the future of Ravenhill which was undecided for years .

To compound the problem is the expectation of the Ulster Spectator which underestimates the shortfall of available local resources . ie Ulster at any time will have about 6-9 first class players in a game nor requiring close to 30 .



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