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A closer look at new Dragons coach Bernard Jackman

Paul Eddison

4 Jul 2017

It’s a new era at Rodney Parade where the Dragons are hoping to improve on last season’s efforts in the Guinness PRO12 under the leadership of Bernard Jackman.

The Irishman took over from Kingsley Jones last month and will be charged with arresting the slide that saw them finish the end of last season on a nine-match losing streak in the league.

In Jackman they have a former Irish international who has honed his skills in France before heading to Wales this summer.

JACKMAN THE PLAYER

As a player Jackman came through the ranks at Connacht, where he was coached by Warren Gatland, although he could easily have gone into farming like his father.

In fact it was Gatland who was instrumental in him becoming a rugby player, having called him to ask him to join Connacht while he was studying international marketing and preparing to move to Japan.

From there the hooker enjoyed spells with Connacht, Sale and Leinster, winning a league title in 2008, as well as the European Cup the following season.

As well as that, he won nine caps for his country over eight years, and eventually called time on his playing career in 2010.

THE FRENCH EXPERIENCE

After hanging up his boots, Jackman – who had done some coaching during his playing days – moved to France to work as a consultant at Grenoble.

After helping them gain promotion back to the Top 14, Jackman took on a more permanent role as the defence coach, as Grenoble comfortably beat the drop in back-to-back seasons, thanks in large part to strong performances in the first half of the season.

Jackman continued to impress, and in 2014, he stepped up to take on more general role, with then head coach Fabrice Landreau moving to director of rugby.

As had been the case for each of the seasons in the top flight, Grenoble were very strong in the first half of the campaign, but only narrowly avoided relegation after a slump in the second half.

While that pattern continued, Jackman led Grenoble to their best finish since their return to the top flight in 2015/16 as they finished tenth.

Last season was not as successful, as a team hit by injuries and off-field issues struggled to cope.

However Jackman’s approach to fitness and detail marked him out as promising coach, with the Dragons hopeful that he will bring that to Rodney Parade.

WHAT COMES NEXT

Even after his departure from Grenoble, Jackman’s coaching reputation remains very high, with Gatland having given him his seal of approval after news of the move.

During a transition period at the club off the pitch, Jackman’s role will be a wide-ranging one, but on it, he should make a big impact.

He kept his coaching notebooks from his 11-year playing career, taking many of them with him to Grenoble, and that approach should be mirrored with the Dragons.

With the likes of Cory Hill, Ollie Griffiths and Harrison Keddie, he has some young talent to work with up front, and Jackman has already highlighted Connacht as the example to follow.

The 2015/16 Guinness PRO12 champions stunned everyone on their way to the title under Pat Lam – Jackman is hoping to follow a similar path with the Dragons.