Getting to know: Allen Clarke

Charlie Talbot-Smith
31 July 2018

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Allen Clarke has a big job on his hands going into next season’s Guinness PRO14 after a difficult campaign last time out and a busy summer of player turnaround for the Ospreys.

The former Ulster hooker took charge of the Welsh region on a temporary basis in January after the dismissal of long-term coach Steve Tandy, and was offered a permanent three-year deal in April.

The move means that, entering the 2018/19 campaign, there will be no Welsh head coaches for any of the four region sides.

A New Challenge

The Ospreys job is Clarke’s first as a head coach after stints on the staff at Ulster and the IRFU.

Clarke started his coaching career in 2006 after injury forced him to call time on his playing days.

The Irishman, who won eight international caps and helped his club to a Heineken Cup win in 1999, was employed for two separate spells at the Kingspan Stadium, but it was announced that he would be making the switch to Swansea in March 2017.

Clarke impressed after taking the reins at Ospreys following a tough start to their campaign, winning four of his first seven games in charge.

Yet a faltering end to the season saw them defeated in the European Champions Cup play-off by Ulster after they finished fifth in Conference A.

Project Youth

Clarke’s dedication towards bringing through young talent is well-documented.

He established Ulster’s Rugby Academy, before his stint as High-Performance Manager at the IRFU saw him build Ireland’s grade structure, for which he is credited with developing a number of young Ireland internationals.

And Clarke’s intentions to continue this at Ospreys were made clear as the club secured new deals for exciting youngsters Will Jones and Reuben Morgan-Williams, whilst Alex Jeffries and Adam Beard are also tipped for big things.

Transitional Period

Despite having made several exciting signings already – Welsh internationals George North, Scott Williams and Aled Davies, among others – the outlay of playing staff has been significant for the Swansea-based side.

Whilst they have brought in six new bodies, Ospreys have lost 15 squad members through transfers or retirement.

Club stalwarts Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb, Ashley Beck and Dmitri Arhip have all moved on to pastures new.

And whilst expectations were perhaps tempered by the club’s poor start to last season, when Clarke first arrived, his first off-season in charge will likely bring about renewed hope.

Ospreys are a team with an illustrious history in the competition – they are the league’s second most successful side behind Leinster – but have only reached the semi-final stage twice since they last lifted the trophy in 2012.

And it was Tandy, in his first year as head coach, who led them to that title.

Ospreys fans will be hoping that Clarke can replicate the feat in his first full campaign.

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