Former Munster full-back Denis Hurley says he has no ambitions to become professional coach as he begins life with Dubai Exiles

Sport360's Matt Jones speaks with former Denis Hurley who was appointed Dubai Exiles’ new defence coach earlier this week.

Matt Jones
by Matt Jones
22nd June 2017

article:22nd June 2017

Denis Hurley.
Denis Hurley.

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.”

LIMERICK, IRELAND - APRIL 08: Denis Hurley of Munster looks on during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Munster and Ulster at Thomond Park on April 8, 2012 in Limerick, Ireland. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Denis Hurley of Munster looks on during the Heineken Cup match against Ulster in 2012.

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.”

Exiles are set to return to pre-season on June 20.

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.”


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