Former Munster coach Ian Costello, now of Wasps
RUGBY coach Ian Costello believes his old team Munster and his current side Wasps have something significant in common this weekend.
Both sides, Costello believes, face the ultimate test in European club rugby this weekend.
Munster face a trip to Sandy Park to take on Premiership high flyers Exeter Chiefs this Saturday, 3.15pm. The previous night, defence coach Costello and Wasps will take on reigning Champions Cup and Guinness PRO14 holders Leinster at the RDS, 7.45pm.
They don’t get any bigger than this.
Costello spent five seasons at Munster, working as skills and ‘A’ coach, having more influence around the attack under Rob Penney and with the late Anthony Foley, his role concentrated more on defence, skills and kicking. During his tenure, Costello guided the Munster A team to B&I Cup success in 2011.
Then, in 2016, former UL-Bohemian Director of Rugby Costello left Munster to take up the role o head coach at English Championship side, Nottingham Rugby.
“I was at Munster five years full-time and one year part-time. You have a certain lifespan at a club.
“If you want to have a longer coaching career you have to look for opportunities in different places as well. I think the PRO D2 in France and the Championship in England were two of the leagues that I looked at to see would there be head coaching opportunities and such an opportunity came up at Nottingham around April of the year I left.
“The Nottingham role gave me that experience of running my own programme, having more influence in terms of managing a club, managing a team, staff, etc and I just felt that was an important stepping stone for somewhere down the line, at least keeping the opportunity open to be a head coach at Pro14 or Premiership level.
“That was the ideal next stage and we identified a period of time that we would spend in the UK, (wife) Louise took a five-year sabbatical from her job.
“Luckily, she was on maternity leave at the time as well, so we looked at a six-year period to say that we could be out of the country if we wanted to.
“So again if you were looking at a perfect scenario you were looking at two-three years at a Championship club and then from between two and four years at a Premiership club, so I think I got lucky then where I got an opportunity at Wasps which is in the same region as Nottingham.”
Costello continues to live in Nottingham with his wife Louise, son five-year-old Cian and daughter, two-year-old Caoimhe, despite his switch to Wasps, who are based in Coventry, this summer.
“We moved into very nice area right beside the rugby club here. It is a fantastic sporting area.
“We live right beside Trent Bridge, the National Aquatic Centre, the City Ground where Notts Forest are and 100metres from where Notts County are, it's sporting mad.
“The commute to training with Wasps (near Coventry) is 55 minutes in the morning and it is anything from an hour to an hour and a half coming home in the evening. The job is pretty flexible time wise. I use the time wisely in the car, between podcasts and everything else.
“I lose two hours minimum a day in the car, that's the bottom line. That is the decision we made, it is purely a family decision.
“We will review it at the end of the year. We do have a good network here because of Nottingham Rugby, I'm still good friends with all the staff.
“At Wasps, no more than Munster, the facilities are state of the art. The staff are top class, whether it's sports science, medical or coaching, it is exciting to be working with new people and to be right on the cutting edge.”
Costello is well placed to offer an educated insight on what Munster can expect from Exeter this Saturday.
Costello said: “Putting it in context, I would say that going to Exeter is as difficult as playing Leinster away. They are incredibly strong at home.
“When you watch Exeter over a period of time, it's like the sum of their parts are far greater than the individual. They don't have a huge amount of stars like other clubs do, but collectively they are so strong they have a really good culture there, they work hard for each other.
“They have a very clear identity on how they play the game. I think, up front, they have a very strong pack, no matter which pack they pick.
“If they get anywhere near your goal-line they are the most effective team in Europe by a long shot, their pick-and-go game and their line-out drive, if you give Exeter access, their conversion rate is higher than any other team in Europe by quite a distance.
“That will be one of the key challenges for Munster. What they don't get as much credit for is how good their ball retention is, how much pressure they put you under by the width and pace of their attack.
“When you play against Exeter you end up having extraordinary long defensive sets. A lot of it is because their breakdown is so good, so it will be an interesting contest because Munster obviously take huge pride in their defensive breakdown and their attacking breakdown.
“It will be a fascinating contest, but I think if Munster go away and beat Exeter that will be a fantastic platform for them to launch the rest of their European campaign.
“They will have to be very close to their best, I think, to win. I have no doubt they are capable of it, but it is one of those pool draws that sharpens your focus and you know that not much less than your best will be good enough.”
After the trip to Exeter, Munster host Gloucester in the Champions Cup on Saturday October 20.