Connacht assistant attack and skills coach Mossy Lawler says that working with the Westerners' technically skillful squad of players has been an exciting element of his opening months of coaching with the senior squad.
After six years in a role in the academy, Lawler -- a native of Limerick and a former Munster and Wasps player -- was promoted into the senior coaching ticket by head coach Andy Friend this past summer.
Given Connacht’s preference for a quick, attacking game plan, Lawler says that his ideas on rugby and those of fellow coaches, Friend, Peter Wilkins, Dewald Senekal, and Cullie Tucker, are aligned and it has led to a highly productive coaching environment at the Sportsground.
“It comes down to the identity that’s here,” the former UL Bohemians coach said.
“That’s how we want to play the game here. That’s how the three past coaches and their vision of the game ties into that identity. From that point of view, it streams down from the top and there’s great alignment to how we want to play the game and execute those skills of the game over and over again in the heat of battle."
The Westerners’ playing personnel all possess a strong skill base and polished technique and having this basis to work from, Lawler says, is exciting. An added benefit is their willingness to learn and push themselves to improve, which he describes as absolute.
“When Andy approached me last year to potentially step up and work with the pro and work side by side with Pete(Wilkins), you’d be a fool to say no to that offer.
“When you look at the talent in the group and the backline in the group and the players that we have there, it is really, really exciting. And getting to implement what you want, in relation to patterns and maps, and knowing that these players can deliver that for you on a Saturday is exciting.
“Working with Pete Wilkins, side by side, and putting those plans into place, irrespective of opposition or in occurrence with the opposition to see what weaknesses or strengths they have, it’s a great job.”
Alongside Lawler, Connacht freshened up their coaching ticket last summer by promoting Cullie Tucker -- also from the academy -- and hiring Dewald Senekal from the French Top14.
Despite the newness of their working relationship, Lawler says they work seamlessly together -- a factor which is helped by their similar views of the game -- and that the fruits of their labour are already clear and will continue to grow over the course of the season.
“That’s the environment that Andy and Pete provide. Andy isn’t a boss that stands over you and tells you what to do, he lets you get on with your job and for me as a young coach coming in that’s absolutely brilliant and Pete just puts everything together.
“We all have similar thoughts on how the game should be played and what and how, and that current alignment is great. Dewald has come in and has fit in seamlessly in relation to his role and Cullie and I have always worked together.
“It comes from the top, the environment that Andy and Pete have created is excellent and it makes it easier for that alignment to happen.”
Having worked in both the academy and with the first team, Lawler is well-positioned to judge Connacht's present prospects and indeed their future aspirations.
Thanks to the club's commitment to development -- which comes from the CEO Willie Ruane down the playing and coaching side of the club -- the Limerick man, who highlighted the brilliant role played by the club scene and its volunteers in the province, is confident that the Westerners will continue to grow and improve.
“There’s a great crop coming through,” the assistant attack and skills coach said of the young talent in Connacht’s academy.
“You could see in last summer’s U20 Six Nations how exceptional some of the guys are. You have the likes of Cathal Forde, the likes of Shane Jennings, Donnacha Byrne, and Oisin McCormack. Darragh Murray, Niall’s brother, didn’t make the squad through injury but, again, a really, really exciting prospect and all indigenous as well which is a big positive.
“From that point of view, it will be really exciting to get them up to training soon and to see where they go from there and it would be great to see these guys fulfill their potential.
“It’s the people,” Lawler says of the driving force behind Connacht Rugby -- from the amateur clubs all the way to the professional set up -- and their collective hunger to grow the game in the province.
“The first time that I moved up here, I was blown away by the people and when you have those individuals who are willing to work hard -- through thick and thin -- no matter what’s thrown at them, you get your results and that, for me, is the most pleasing part of all.”