Denis Hurley insists he will not use Dubai Exiles as a career stepping stone and claims he has no aspirations of following former team-mate and coach Anthony Foley into professional coaching.
The 32-year-old Irish former Munster player was appointed Exiles’ new defence coach earlier this week and will assist director of rugby Jacques Benade and fellow South African Gareth Venter.
Hurley had taken up a role with Cork-based amateur side Dolphin RFC following his release by Munster after nearly 13 years last year, and the ex-Ireland international said he is more comfortable trying to help improve the fortunes of an amateur club playing near the professional level.
“I want to say straight off I have no aspirations to be a professional coach. It’s an unloving industry,” Hurley told Sport360 at Dubai Offshore Sailing Club Wednesday.
“It’s quite tough, with coaches travelling all over the world with their families. If you have one bad experience it can have a knock-on effect and I’d prefer my family to be happy and have more time with me.
“Training with an amateur club at a high level is more suited for me. I can spend time with the sport I love and give back a lot of the knowledge I’ve picked up over the years.
“I’ve seen players grow at previous clubs and that’s ingratiating for me. Everyone wants to get better, whatever level, and if I can help with that then that’s more important for me than making a career out of it.
“Rugby is always going to be a part of my life and has given me a lot over the years so I’m not going to park it just because I’ve stopped playing. It’s what I love doing and I’ve enjoyed coaching so far, so I’m looking forward to getting stuck in with Exiles next season.”
Hurley’s arrival is a real coup for Exiles and Benade, whose side really struggled last season to build on his brilliant debut campaign in which the club won the West Asia Championship and UAE Premiership double after a long period without silverware.
Exiles are set to begin pre-season training on June 30 as they prepare to lay the foundations for return to form and attempt to wrest the initiative from Abu Dhabi Harlequins, who won every trophy on offer in 2016/17.
But the Cork native feels he is already at an advantage, having lived in Dubai since February after his wife accepted a job in marketing.
Hurley, who won the 2008 Heineken Cup with his boyhood club, watched several games towards the end of the season as well as running several training drills, and has already familiarised himself with a bulk of the players.
“Hopefully I can help Jacques and Gareth as well as grow my own coaching techniques to suit the guys, and play the type of rugby I’m keen on,” added Hurley, who played 166 times for Munster and won a solitary Ireland cap in 2009.
“I was eager to get involved as soon as possible. I linked in with the guys in March, Jacques gave me a few drills to do, give the guys a different voice and I enjoyed it, and got to know a few of the guys.
“I was able to see the abilities of some and from what I saw there’s a lot of good quality players. If I can help and give them a better understanding, that’s good. Jacques gets a little hot-headed on the sidelines, I’m a bit more level headed so maybe we’ll get a happy medium.”
With clubs, players and the game in the UAE creeping ever close towards professionalism, recruiting is key every summer, but Hurley revealed his appointment is a result of an email he sent to the club himself.
“Yeah, I got in touch with the club. You’ve got to put feelers out there,” he said.
“I wanted to get involved with a club willing to move forward with their game and bring someone in from the professional side. Selfishly for me that opens up a network of people for me. I did my bit of work experience with the club first.
“We have friends and family over here so have been here a number of times. We said we’d try and do something somewhere else. I’d made contact with a few people, Apollo Perelini was one of them.
“One of the things I wanted to do was get back into coaching because I’d been doing it back home and was enjoying it.”
And asked what qualities he thinks he can bring having to Exiles as a former pro, Hurley added: “From my background, being fit and ready for games constantly, that’s one of things we’ll look at.
“I’ll be able to link in training. The All Blacks do all their work with the ball, there’s a big focus nowadays on that. How to create that environment with match fitness in mind is one of the things I’ll be able to bring.
“I spoke to Jacques about our approach to pre-season and with the Dubai Sevens break too, keeping forwards interested or even get them in shape for that.”
Peter O’Mahony will captain the British and Irish Lions in Saturday’s first Test against New Zealand.
The Ireland flanker has won selection ahead of tour skipper Sam Warburton, who takes a seat on the bench for the weekend’s Eden Park clash.
Saturday’s Auckland showdown now becomes the first time a tour captain has not led the Lions in an opening Test since England’s Doug Prentice missed out in 1930.
Liam Williams has been preferred to Leigh Halfpenny at full-back, while Elliot Daly starts on the left-wing in an attacking back three.
“We have picked a side based on form with a lot of players putting their hands up, especially from the Crusaders and Maori All Blacks games, and it was a lively selection meeting,” said Lions head coach Warren Gatland.
“The win against the Chiefs was also extremely important for the squad and some players played themselves into the side.
“We have continuously been strong at set-piece and have been good defensively in the last two or three outings.
“But to beat the All Blacks you have to be courageous and play some rugby – you have to score tries and I think we have picked a team capable of doing that.”
Cardiff and Wales flanker Warburton has scrambled for full match sharpness ever since suffering an ankle problem in the tour-opening 13-7 win over the Provincial Barbarians.
So now Munster’s ferocious back-rower O’Mahony will captain the Lions in a Test match – just three months after he was named only on the bench for Ireland’s closing Six Nations match against England.
O’Mahony has spent the last 18 months battling persistent knee problems, but has forced a resurgence since the end of the season.
That was all kick-started when Jamie Heaslip suffered a back injury in the warm-up to the March 18 clash with England in Dublin. The Aviva Stadium crowd cheered loudly when the announcer revealed O’Mahony would replace the injured Heaslip in Ireland’s starting line-up.
Joe Schmidt’s men went on to dispatch England 13-9, denying the visitors a second straight grand slam and ending their record-winning run at 18 games. And O’Mahony excelled throughout that feisty win for the Irish.
The pack that suffocated the runaway Super Rugby leaders the Crusaders 12-3 in Christchurch starts the first Test, with Warburton primed to join the fray from the bench.
Gatland hailed his starting loose-forward trio for excelling across the tour so far.
“It’s a reward for how the back row has gone,” said Gatland.
“There is a nice balance there while Peter captained the side against the Maori All Blacks and has done a good job.”
Halfpenny’s omission from the starting XV suggests that fly-half Owen Farrell – fit after a thigh injury scare – will kick at goal, though Wasps star Daly boasts a strong long-range kicking option.
Daly’s strong showing in the 34-6 win over the Chiefs on Tuesday night appears to have swayed Gatland’s mind to start him for the first Test, with Saracens-bound Williams also having impressed in Hamilton at full-back.
“Elliot has been very accurate in the way he has played and we saw some excellent attacking play from Liam on Tuesday night,” said Gatland.
“We are excited about the 15 that take the field but also the very strong and experienced bench players who will have an impact.”
Jack Nowell scored a double as the Lions ended their mid-week slump with a convincing 34-6 win over the Chiefs at Waikato Stadium.
Here, we take a look at five things we learned from the match in Hamilton.
Before the tour began live-wire English flyer Jack Nowell would have been tipped as one of the test wingers but to date so far on the tour his form has been poor. But against the Chiefs the Exeter man finally delivered with a non-stop two try performance. It’s too late for Nowell to force his way into the first Test side but if he can keep this up he may feature later in the series.
There are just a couple of bench spots left up for grabs for Auckland on Saturday and England utility Elliot Daly looks to have fought off the challenges of Jack Nowell and Liam Williams for the back three reserve. His consistency under the high ball, huge goal-kicking boot and counter-attacking skills looks to have given Daly the edge for the Test bench. His ability to play at centre also helps.
For the second game in a row the Lions kept the Kiwis try-less and this is all credit to defence coach Andy Farrell. The Lions’ swarming defence and line speed completely shut down the Chiefs dangerous attacking weapons, just as they did against the Maori on Saturday. The challenge now goes up a level against the devastating All Blacks but confidence as a defensive unit will be building in the Lions camp.
Towering lock Courtney Lawes may be the most unlucky player in the Lions squad to miss out on the Test 23. Lawes has done nothing wrong all tour and was superb against the Chiefs with nine carries, seven tackles and four line-out wins in a stand out performance. But with Kruis and Itoje the starting locks, Gatland will probably opt for experience on Saturday giving the bench lock spot to Welsh veteran Alun Wyn Jones.
Where many other coaches would have cracked under the pressure, especially after the losses to the Blues and the Highlanders, Warren Gatland has kept his cool superbly on tour even finding the verve to fire a few shots at the All Blacks himself this week about obstruction runners. Gatland has simply blocked out the white noise and kept his eyes on the prize – a Test series victory – something almost impossible to do in New Zealand.