THE NEWS THAT Connacht Rugby has a list of 40 top-class managers vying for the role of head coach next season has surprised few whereas five years ago it would have shocked many.
Currently enjoying their second season of Heineken Cup rugby and Pro12 victors over European champions Leinster, the western province are far from the finished article but they are certainly a good read.
Add to the mix the exciting backline talents of Robbie Henshaw, Kieran Marmion and Tiernan O’Halloran and one can imagine the Connacht board will have its task cut out in devising a shortlist of three.
The new coach may have to draft in a new second-row as Mike McCarthy looks set for a lengthy stint of international duty.
Unlucky to miss out on World Cup selection after a fine debut against Scotland, McCarthy truly took his chance in a green jersey at the fifth time of asking.
His man-of-the-match performance against South Africa two weeks ago was the major positive for squad shorn of their talisman in the pack, Paul O’Connell.
On the verge of his fifth cap, McCarthy insists he was not taking the number five jersey for granted.
“My feeling was one of relief when Deccie named the team,” he told TheScore.ie, “as the lads played so well [against Fiji] at the weekend.”
The Irish players, McCarthy says, have been ‘bubbling in training’ and are ‘itching’ to get out and battle the Pumas on Saturday. He added:
Argentina playing in The Rugby Championship has benefited them massively. We know they’re a class team and know we have to be on top of our game to come out with a win.”
The Londoner is enjoying his second row partnership with Donnacha Ryan, a relative veteran of 22 international caps but in line to start only for 10th occasion.
McCarthy and his teammates eyed up the world ranking table before sitting down for video reviews of the Pumas in action, paying particular heed to the recent victory over Wales.
The breakdown and ‘their physicality’ are Argentina’s main weapons, he says.
McCarthy added, “They are very annoying and frustrating to play against. Their counter-rucking is big too and they’ve got hard, strong ball carriers.”
After losing John Muldoon for three months, Connacht coach Eric Elwood will be hoping his lock survives another fierce Test match on Saturday.
40 coaches based in Ireland and abroad will also follow the action closely and marveling at a player that has proved late is better than never.