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'Would you do 10 or 12 hours? We've no budget for it but it could lead somewhere'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Ian Costello, the soon-to-depart Wasps assistant coach, has some invaluable advice for coaches aspiring to make it in the professional game – take every opportunity you can get as you never know what doors it could open. Costello’s career trajectory bears this out. Around a decade ago he was asked to do some skills training for gratis with Tony McGahan’s Munster squad. It led to a contract the following year and progress that culminated in a two-year stint as the late Anthony Foley’s defence coach.


Then, after cutting the umbilical cord with his native province, the Irishman swapped countries and headed to England in 2016 to become head coach at Nottingham in the Championship, an adventure that paved the way for him to step up into the Gallagher Premiership two years later with Wasps, the club he helped reach the final last October.

With a new position now secured back at Munster as head of the academy, next Saturday’s East Midlands derby versus Leicester will be Costello’s English farewell and he will return to Ireland a far wiser, more developed coach who hopes his own experiences clambering up the pro coaching ladder can serve as an inspiration to others, especially those whose CVs don’t include a stint as a professional player.

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Increasingly, coaches working in the professional game are ex-players who used to play professionally but Costello is a shining example of how you don’t have to have taken that route, the Kerryman graduating with a university sports science degree and then carving out his career as a pro rugby coach who has occupied enviable roles in Ireland and England.

For sure he can be rightly proud of his achievements. “You have to work hard for opportunities coming out of Ireland if you haven’t a well-established career as a player, and it’s about maximising those opportunities when you get a chance,” said Costello to RugbyPass, whose correspondent vividly remembers getting a warts and all insight to the inspiring roll-your-sleeves role he had taken on at Nottingham when visiting a Lady Bay captain’s run in December 2016.

“My first opportunity at Munster was when Tony McGahan said to me, ‘Look, there is a need for some skills here, would you do ten or twelve hours? We have no budget for it but it could lead somewhere’. I ended up doing 20 hours a week while I worked as director of rugby at Bohs. That translated into a full-time contract the year after so my advice to everyone would be to just take every opportunity you can get, coach as much as you possibly can, meet as many people as you can, network – something I’m not particularly good at but have tried to get better at – and then if you have got that you give yourself a chance.


It’s certainly a route I would encourage if you got the opportunity. It’s fantastic to work over here in England. I thought it was a much bigger deal than it was. You are in a bubble sometimes (in Ireland). I was at Munster for a long time. As soon as I moved I was, ‘This is brilliant, a great experience for me and my family’.

“It’s about opportunity and I was very fortunate to get the opportunity at Nottingham with some really good people that when I sat down with them day one it felt right and then that Nottingham job led to the Wasps job. I was very deliberate in what path I went.

“I wanted to experience a head coach role and that opportunity was likely to be at a level below Premiership or pro rugby and that Nottingham opportunity was just a fantastic fit for me. For two years, that head coach experience was about how to manage a programme, run a programme, manage a team, interact with committees and make an awful lot more decisions than I would have made traditionally when I worked as an assistant coach with Munster.

“That was massive in terms of my development and then the next three years, to experience a different league, the Premiership is so attritional week in week out, you have to be so consistent, you get challenged in so many different ways. I have worked under two more head coaches here as well with a different coaching team that has quite a bit of change and a squad that has transitioned.


“Without getting too deep I’m quite reflective, quite critical in the way I think about things so I tried to take every opportunity to learn and develop and I have had some incredible opportunities over here to learn from other people and learn from players.

“The one thing about the UK in terms of its size as well to Ireland is you are interacting with cricket coaches, rowing coaching, rugby league, football – we were lucky enough that we got a lot of opportunity over the last five years to learn from people like that and hopefully I can bring that (back to Munster) and transfer it to a different context.”


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