With Leo Cullen leading Leinster Rugby to a fourth European Cup last season, after captaining the Irish province to their first three victories, we take a look at some of the former players that are now instrumental in our teams’ coaching set ups.
Leo Cullen (Leinster Rugby)
The Leinster Rugby head coach became the first person to lift the European Cup as a player and coach when guiding the Irish province to a fourth European crown last season in a 15-12 victory over Racing 92 in Bilbao.
Aside from a two-year spell at Leicester Tigers, Cullen spent his entire playing career at Leinster, where he was made captain in 2008, after Brian O’Driscoll stepped down. Under his leadership, the Irish province won three European Cups in four seasons before he retired in 2014.
The 40-year-old took over the reins as Leinster head coach in 2015 and made history with the first European Cup-PRO14 double last season.
Get the latest pre-season update from head of athletic performance, Charlie Higgins, and find out what the players will be working on for the next two weeks: https://t.co/0F0MOuYvaL #LeinsterRugby pic.twitter.com/PaBygd8i4C
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) July 9, 2018
Jared Payne (Ulster Rugby)
The former Ulster Rugby centre retired from rugby in May, after suffering a head injury on the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour. He has since been named defence coach of the Irish province.
Payne made 21 appearances in the European Cup, scoring five tries. The 32-year-old Ireland international had previously played for Super Rugby’s Chiefs, Crusaders and Blues.
Speaking about his appointment, Payne said: “While I will undoubtedly miss the buzz of running out with mates every weekend, I have to listen to the medical advice and unfortunately give up the dream. However, I’ve surprised myself how much I have enjoyed coaching and I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into this role on a permanent basis.”
Geordan Murphy (Leicester Tigers)
The back spent all of his playing career with the Leicester Tigers, helping them to successive European Cups in 2001 and 2002 and finishing his 16th and final season by lifting the domestic title for the eighth time.
Murphy scored a try in the 2002 final against Munster Rugby, a 15-9 victory at the Principality Stadium, and had a productive record in European rugby, scoring 25 times in 74 European Cup appearances.
After retiring in 2013, the Irish international was appointed onto the Tigers’ coaching team and is now an assistant coach under Matt O’Connor.
🗓 The first fixtures for the Pool Stage will be released later this summer, around two weeks after the last fixture announcement of Europe’s three professional domestic leagues. pic.twitter.com/MK2aHksELd
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) July 7, 2018
Todd Blackadder (Bath Rugby)
Like Jared Payne, Blackadder started his career in New Zealand before becoming a familiar face in European rugby.
Blackadder led the Crusaders to three Super Rugby titles before coming over and spending three years at Edinburgh Rugby from 2001. He played 13 times in the European Cup, scoring four tries for the Scottish club.
After retiring in 2004, the 46-year-old former All Blacks lock became assistant coach at Edinburgh, before time as Tasman RFU’s Director of Rugby, the Crusaders’ head coach and then arriving at Bath Rugby in 2016.
Nathan Hines (Montpellier)
The former Scotland lock played for four European sides – Edinburgh Rugby, ASM Clermont Auvergne, Sale Sharks and Leinster Rugby, where he won the European Cup in 2011.
Upon his retirement in 2015, he joined the Scotland national team as a resource coach before moving with Vern Cotter to Montpellier and becoming his assistant coach.