Scott Bemand ’s First Press Conference- What We Learned From New Ireland Head Coach

Scott Bemand ’s First Press Conference- What We Learned From New Ireland Head Coach
Alanna Cunnane
Alanna Cunnane

Ireland’s new head coach Scott Bemand held his first press conference today, where he announced his captains for their upcoming tournament, shed light on his reasoning behind his squad selection and defined what his goals are for his term as boss.

In his first opportunity to address the media since his appointment to the 15’s position in July, he also took the opportunity to explain the broader link between the XVs and sevens programmes, as well as how the Ireland setup will continue to work in tandem with players who aren’t contracted and therefore balancing rugby alongside their careers.

This is all in preparation for the WXV3 competition Ireland are playing next month in Dubai where they face Kazakhstan, Colombia and Spain in an effort to continue their development and build towards next year’s Six Nations.


Scott Bemand’s new co captains


Bemand listed Sam Monaghan and Edel McMahon as co captains for their upcoming games, succeeding the recently retired Nichola Fryday in the role.

The pair, who were previously teammates at Wasps, will share the duties that accompany that mantel, a conscious decision by the former England assistant coach who outlined his rationale of why that will be the case.

“The strategic importance of this tour is to learn how to perform again and to unearth talent. Part of that is by the time we get to the 2024 qualification process we want to know what the leadership group looks like, we want to know what captaincy looks like and we’ve got a bit of time now where we can grow that” he said.

“We’re delighted to be able to announce that Sam Monaghan and Edel McMahon have accepted the role of co captains. I think they're the right people for developing their leadership skills within a leadership group.”

It had previously been put to the IRFU that the premature retirement of Fryday at the age of 28 was in part due to the severe scrutiny she, and the entire team were under after a disappointing Six Nations campaign, although both parties continue to maintain that her stepping back was a personal decision.

Whichever the reason, there’s no doubt the captain, or captains in this case will continue to be under major examination, a reality which Bemand describes comes with an onus of protection too.

“If you're in an environment that’s high pressure you’ve got to provide high support” he said, mentioning various tactics the IRFU are now employing to aid their players in this process.

Scott Bemand’s aims and philosophy

Having signed a three year contract with the IRFU, Scott Bemand is in it for the long haul with Ireland, a fact which is certainly in line with the anticipated trajectory he has in mind for his team.

Coming from such a high achieving environment at England to a more development project at Ireland, he insists the new culture he brings to the table hangs on two things- clarity and purpose.

Ever assured of Ireland’s “heart and grit and graft”, he’s also confident that there has been a change in mindset within the organisation that will see continued growth of the game in this country and implement “a winning identity” in the long run.

“It’s about changing mindset, developing players and developing a strong training identity which we know will provide a couple of things” he said.

“When things get tough it means you’ll be able to deal with those tough bits. When things are going right it means you create competition within which keeps driving standards ever higher. 

“Timing is everything. There’s a need now, there’s a want for this team to do well. It’s just our job now to do it out on the pitch.”

Stressing that he believes the player pool has capability that he is “immensely excited” about, he pinpoint Ireland’s strongest assets as “the set piece, the back five, the running talent” and that “it’s about connecting all of those up and enjoying it.”

Hopeful that the brand of rugby that will emerge out of that will be an exciting prospect for fans and onlooking underage players rising through the ranks in future, the more short term goals have a slightly sharper focus.

Twofold, Bemand comes across as big on the strategic nurturing of younger players into stalwart Irish prospects, as well as also competing  at major tournaments as soon as possible.

There’s certainly a short term goal where we want to get to a World Cup” he said.

“My angle on that is get to a World Cup and you want to have successful performances within a World Cup. 

“For me that’s looking at knockout stages, we want to be getting back to that sort of level. 

So it’s a bit of a challenge for us.”

Scott Bemand’s reasons behind those who weren’t selected

A 30-player squad was picked for this fast approaching WXV3 tournament, notably one with seven uncapped players and without the likes of  stars such as Dearbhaile Nic A Bhaird and Hannah O’Connor.

Nic A Bhaird’s exclusion, as Scott Bemand explained, is down to “ a significant injury” that will rule her out for some time, but O’Connor’s omission was for another reason entirely.

That was one that was propelled by his desire for a “bit of a refresh, a bit of regeneration” within the squad.

“I think it’s really important to bring some new talent in and to show that there’s a pathway and that their on field performances can get noticed.”

“I think that kind of fits with the strategic angle for the tour” Bemand said, “I’ve had conversations with Hannah.”

“We know what she can do…going forward she’ll have a part to play in this. 

“What we want to do is create space for this new talent coming through.”

With the goal of increasing squad depth to the fore, Scott Bemand perhaps summed it up best with one statement.

“To create depth you have to create competition” he said.

With that said, key sevens players such as Eve Higgins and Beibhinn Parsons have made the cut, although the new Ireland head coach emphasised that this was “not a mix and match” procedure, but rather a concept with “careful planning around it.”

“It’ll be done only when it’s appropriate both for the players and the programmes” he said.

“I’d quite like to say that they’re mutually beneficial.”

Scott Bemand’s own background

Scott Bemand himself spent eight years within the English system, separating him as a prime candidate for the Irish role in order to implement similar practices in a bid to grab a slice of their success this side of the water.

That advancement however has to come with tangible investment too.

The facilities are here and the supports here, so the IRFU and what they’ve put in place from a programme perspective has the foundation on which to build success” Bemand said. 

“That for me was really important [when he took the job]. If you’re going to go after something you’ve got to support it well.

“ I sort of took a viewpoint that I think in a changing environment there’s a timing piece, and the timing was right for change, people were open to change. There’s a couple of things that we’ve done, we’ve built some clarity and we’ll try and define and become what we believe our training identity is” he added.

Ireland’s current mix of contracted, non contracted, professional, semi pro and amatuer players also continues to be a contentious one, in stark contrast to many of the leading women’s rugby teams around the world.

This is a notion Bemand admits he is already familiar with, and one that requires consistent and open dialogue.

It’s a little bit like going back to that time” he said, referencing his early days at England.

“I’ve been in a model thats already transitioned so I think there’s certain things we can learn about quickly. 

“Generally communicating seems to top the bill. If we can give people time and have good open communication…we generally get quite good buy in. People seem to be desperate to be involved in a good Ireland team again which is great.”

Vikki Wall’s position

At the press conference, Scott Bemand was joined by the IRFU Head of Women's Performance and Pathways, Gillian McDarby, who answered questions in relation to the broader orientation of the organisation going forward.

One particular talking point focused on gaelic footballer Vikki Wall’s involvement with the Irish rugby sevens, something which she has been involved in since the start of August.

“She’s a contracted player,” McDarby said.

“Her dream is to go to the Olympics and she’s making great progress. 

“She’ll get exposed to game time now in the development competitions and we’ll start to monitor her progress then whether we bring her into the World Series set up in Dubai.

“If we can tap more gaelic players to come into the system that’s exactly what we want to do and give the opportunity to go to the Olympics or to go to a World Cup with the 15s, there’s plenty of opportunities for them to come into.”

These are all things both the sevens and fifteens programmes will look to expand over the coming years, although for now there are imminent matches to look ahead to.

Scott Bemand’s upcoming Ireland WXV3 Dubai matches

  • 13th October versus Kazakhstan 19.30 (local time) 16.30 Irish time
  • 21st October versus Colombia 17.00 (local time) 14.00 Irish time
  • 28th October versus Spain 17.00 (local time) 14.00 Irish time

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