GLASGOW WARRIORS attack coach Nigel Carolan believes that creative tension which has led to some ‘robust conversations’ between himself and his new boss, Franco Smith, is a healthy thing which will help the team bounce back this season after the wheels came off the bandwagon towards the end of the 2021-22 campaign.
Smith came on board as Warriors’ new head coach at the start of August, filling the gap created by the departure of Danny Wilson in the aftermath of the team’s humiliating 76-14 hammering by Leinster in the URC play-offs back in June, and no-nonsense South African has wasted little time in making his mark.
Carolan says that Smith has pushed him out of his comfort zone, but stressed that he in enjoying the challenge of trying to align his own coaching approach with the new man in charge.
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“I didn’t know Danny before I came over to Glasgow this time last year, so you have to build relationships – trust and belief in each other – and it’s the same with Franco,” he explained. “He’s got a very strong vision of what he wants for the club and how he wants the game to be played. I’m an assistant coach. I’m not there to dictate. I’m very much about trying to roll in behind him the best I can.
“Since he’s arrived, it’s a lot of clarity, a lot of conversations and looking at footage to see what we think. It’s a good challenge.
“I was certainly never in a comfort zone last year although I probably had more autonomy in terms of the attack. Franco has an attacking mindset himself so it’s about marrying up our philosophies which aren’t a million miles apart, so that we’re on the same page and I can support his ideas.
“I’m never too shy about getting my hands dirty,” the Irishman continued. “It’s just about trying to help wherever I can. Because it’s change again, that can be unsettling for some, but it’s about getting the team to perform and we all need to be on the same page for that. I’ll do whatever I need to do.
“We’ll have a few barneys along the way. There are a few things we won’t agree on all the time. That’s a good thing. We had a few robust conversations this morning about certain things. It’s really great and that’s what I’m embracing, too.
“It’s a fresh challenge for me. I’m out of my comfort zone again which is why I’m on this coaching journey. You have to get out of whatever ‘normal’ is as that’s where growth comes from.”
A similar matter-of-fact approach is necessary when it comes to the coaches and players interacting, Carolan added. “We’re all in this together,” he said; “It’s definitely not coaches pointing the finger at players or vice versa. We had a pretty in-depth review of last season, and it starts with self-reflection on what we did and what we can do differently.
“Players want honesty. They want to be called out and challenged. You don’t want to create an environment where it becomes toxic and negative, but you want to make sure they’re on the road to improvement.”
Carolan also explained that the squad members who played international rugby this summer are unlikely to be back for the first match of the URC season against Benetton a week on Friday.
“When the non-internationals came back in [for pre-season], they did four weeks of really hard work to get that bank of physical conditioning into them then started their match prep, and then the internationals came in so they’re four weeks behind,” he explained.
“We feel it’s important that they get a similar programme as well, so it’s not just about dropping them into the first game. If we can get through the first couple of games without having all our internationals in there it just means we can start to mix things up a little bit more.”
“It’s not a blanket approach, it’s definitely case-by-case depending on injuries, really.“
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