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Off the field issues dominate

By Staff Reporter

It was a week when what happened off the pitch overshadowed what happened on it.

First we had the ‘coachgate’ saga at Ulster Rugby.

Two weeks ago it was revealed Ulster head coach Brian McLaughlin, the province’s most successful coach since Harry Williams won the European Cup in 1999, would not be having his contract renewed.

A bombshell not only in content but timing. Ulster waited a full week before Director of Rugby David Humphreys tried to justify the decision at a press conference with McLaughlin sat beside him.

“In professional sport there are short term and long term objectives in your organisation, as part of our long term strategy we are now at the point of the season in Ulster Rugby where we are going to change our head coach for next year,” stated Humphreys. The former Ireland out half went on to explain the rationale behind the decision without coming up with one definitive reason for changing the coach.

Humphreys then had to deal with a barrage of hostile questions while McLaughlin’s demeanour suggested he didn’t want to be there.

On Wednesday a statement was then released by Ulster from McLaughlin.

“I wish to clarify my situation and apologise for any misunderstanding that may have arisen,” the statement read.

“Last year I sought and was successful in securing a permanent contract with Ulster Rugby. This allowed me the job security to leave my teaching post and follow a professional coaching career. At the same time, I extended my role as head coach for the 2011-12 season.”

So roll on Friday’s home game against the Dragons, which Ulster won with a bonus point.


Frozen out

Then to Paris on Saturday. Five minutes before Ireland were due to kick off in the Six Nations against France referee Dave Pearson deemed the pitch dangerous  and unplayable despite an hour early passing it fit and leaving 80,000 fans bewildered.

The game could, and should, have been cancelled earlier in the week.

On Tuesday French winger Vincent Clerc expressed his concerns about the pitch while Ireland’s running and kicking practice scheduled for Friday were cancelled as the pitch had to remain covered.

With temperatures reaching between -7 and -10 before the 9pm local time kick off, the game was always in doubt.

The covers came off two hours before the game, but in the freezing conditions the pitch froze up and the game was never happening, leaving 5000 Ireland fans out of pocket and waiting for a decision on what is going to happen. Hopefully this week the action will return to the pitch as Ulster travel to Cardiff looking to keep their push for a play-off up.


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