Allen Clarke believes leaving Irish rugby can help take him to the next level as a coach.

The former Ireland hooker is the new head coach of the Ospreys having worked since January as interim boss and turned around the Welsh region’s fortunes after a wretched season which sees them at risk of missing out on Champions Cup qualification.

Clarke is one of two Irishmen who holds the role of head coach at one of the four Welsh regions, with Bernard Jackman heading up operations at the Dragons.

Clarke is confident Irish rugby can reap the rewards of their coaches heading overseas.

“In terms of being a good head coach it is about having that willingness to go out of your environment to gain experience elsewhere,” said Clarke.

“It opens your eyes to different ways of learning and coaching but it also helps you gain respect as someone who hasn’t always been in their home environment all of their life.

“I am from the North of Ireland and a lot of my coaching and rugby was at Ulster but equally I worked with Ireland as a high-performance manager. I’ve also coached in England.

“I did my time in New Zealand and Australia to see what was good over there and if you speak to most people who are sent on those fact-finding trips they’ll come back with a similar message which is there are no secrets in the game.

“It’s about the environment you create and how you conduct yourself as a coach and the standards you set.”

When Steve Tandy was sacked as Ospreys coach in January the Welsh region claimed they would scour the world for a “world-class” coach.

Given the fact Clarke has never held the position of head coach many Ospreys fans are understandably underwhelmed at his appointment.

But the 50-year-old has assured supporters he will bring success to Swansea having learnt from some of the best coaches in the game.

“We are all moulded by the people we have worked with and the environments we have been in,” he said.

“But it’s all down to the individual. If you look at the world-class rugby individuals I’ve worked with or have been coached by you are looking at names like Ian McGeechan.

“I coached with Mark McCall when we won the Magners League in 2006 and more recently Joe Schmidt who came to Leinster as an assistant coach from Clermont.”

The former Ulster forwards coach has also urged Welsh rugby to take a leaf out of Ireland’s book by working closer with the WRU in terms of player development and managing the workload of some of Wales’ senior internationals.

The management system in Ireland is excellent. The rugby pathway for any young man is excellent.

“Many of the schools are like academies with their own directors of rugby, strength and conditioning departments and gyms that are the envy of some professional clubs. So there’s a real efficiency about what’s happening within the school environment feeding into each of the provinces.

“It’s something we will address here and we’re working with the Welsh national team hand in glove. We don’t want to be the awkward cousin to the Irish provinces. We want to be a real partner of the Welsh national team to ensure our players are being well managed here.”


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