From defence at Gloucester to attack at Glasgow, Ulster and Ireland legend Jonny Bell is relishing a new challenge after being named as the final piece of the jigsaw for the Warriors coaching team next season.
The club announced yesterday that the 45-year-old Ulster and Ireland legend, who won 36 caps between 1994 and 2003, will replace Jason O’Halloran who, along with fellow Kiwi and head coach Dave Rennie, is leaving Scotstoun at the end of the season.
Former centre Bell has been assistant coach at Gloucester since 2015 and helped them finish third in the English Premiership last season. He also stepped in temporarily as interim head coach at Kingsholm during the 2016-17 season.
The man from Belfast also had four years as assistant coach at Ulster, whom he represented 96 times as a player from 2011 to 2015 and helped win the Heineken Cup in 1999. He played for Ireland at two Rugby World Cups.
Bell, who will work under incoming head coach Danny Wilson, said: “I’m thrilled and excited to be joining Glasgow Warriors next season.
“It’s a club I know well from my time with Ulster and they are blessed with a talented, hard-working playing group and excellent coaches. I look forward to adding considerable value to this great environment.
“As an experienced coach, I have worked both sides of the ball throughout my career and I’ve had head coach experience with Gloucester. The opportunity to carry on the great work of Jason and Dave in attack was too good to turn down.
“Danny is a coach I have known and respected for a number of years now. He has a proven track record of getting the best out of his players and staff and when we sat down to discuss the role, it was quickly evident that we were very aligned in our philosophy on the game.”
After making his Ulster debut aged 18, Bell arrived on the international scene during a fairly lean time for Ireland but was still there as the Brian O’Driscoll-led golden generation emerged at the turn of the century.
He played four times for Ireland against Scotland in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1999, losing on each occasion. A career highlight was his man-of-the-match display in Ulster’s 21-6 Heineken Cup final win over Colomiers of France at Lansdowne Road in 1999.
Wilson added: “We’re excited that Jonny has agreed to join us next season.
“Once we learned that Jason O’Halloran was returning home [to New Zealand], Jonny was the top of the list of coaches we wanted to bring to Glasgow.
“We know we’re getting a knowledgeable, well-rounded coach who is vastly experienced in coaching both sides of the ball.
“Jonny also has extensive experience in the Pro14, English Premiership and European Cup and we’re looking forward to him joining us next summer.”
The man Bell will replace at the end of the season, meanwhile, is fully-focused on this Saturday afternoon’s 1872 Cup second leg against Edinburgh at BT Murrayfield. O’Halloran is relishing a match, for which around 21,000 tickets have already been sold, and the chance for more space on the international pitch.
“Potentially, it very much depends on the weather,” said the current Warriors attack coach. “It was really tough last week [at Scotstoun] against La Rochelle [a 13-7 home Heineken Champions Cup defeat].
“You can see we made a few crucial errors there. It [the weather] was better for this game [the 20-16 win over Edinburgh at the weekend], as good as you can expect for this time of year.
“Playing at Murrayfield doesn’t change a lot of what we want to do. Ultimately, against Edinburgh, you have to win the confrontation first, you have to make sure your set piece is solid and have to make decent hits in defence and when you are carrying you get front-foot ball.
“If you try to over play off static ball, you hand stuff up to Hamish Watson, Jamie Ritchie and those boys. We were guilty of that a couple of times in that last match, crucially towards the end when we got an isolated carrier and they got a penalty off that and we were defending a maul again.”
O’Halloran arrived in Scotland ahead of the 2015 World Cup, appointed national attack coach by Vern Cotter. As his time in the country approaches its final few months in the new year, he said: “I just want to be close to my kids, it’s as simple as that.
“I have nothing lined up at this stage, nothing at all, but out of courtesy to the club, I didn’t want to be oohing and aahing and in three months telling them I have something back home in New Zealand and they miss out on a decent attack coach in the meantime.
“I just wanted to give them as much time as possible to find the best replacement they could get. For me, it means I am committed to finding something at home.
“I know that if I don’t do a decent job here, nobody is going to want me. It’s no different to a player.”
O’Halloran added: “We’re all professionals here and if you want a job you have to go at it while you are here. You’re only as good as your last season at your last job so I need my part to go well but I also trust in the players we have got to turn the corner.”