Holm Truths: Paul Moriarty - Gloucester defence coach profile
Two years out of his native South Wales taught Paul Moriarty more than he ever expected.
Gloucester's new defence coach told Nick Purewal how his Newcastle Falcons experience can help him prosper at Kingsholm.
PAUL Moriarty went to Newcastle to reinvent himself.
The straight-talking new Gloucester defence coach swapped the South Wales 'goldfish bowl' for the biggest test of his career.
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If he left behind the pressure-cooker atmosphere of his rugby-mad homeland, the former dual-code Welsh international stepped into an entirely different set of stresses.
The job at Newcastle Falcons was to build a team not just to fend off relegation but to climb the Premiership.
Budget constraints bit too hard, though, in the crossover between Dave Thompson and Semore Kurdi's stewardships.
Squeezing the maximum from an overstretched squad proved as engaging as it was no doubt frustrating, and it ended after two years with Premiership demotion last term.
The 48-year-old would have every right to rue some elements of his North East adventure – but Moriarty believes the Falcons stint has made him a far better coach.
Switching to Gloucester takes the former Swansea back-rower right back into unashamed rugby-obsessed territory, and he is ready to embrace the county heartland.
"It's a privilege to be at this club," explained the former Halifax and Widnes rugby league second row.
"This is a real rugby county, and it's funny to be back in that kind of surrounding after my time in Newcastle.
"In Newcastle you can wander around the city and not be recognised.
"But even on my first day here looking for houses people were coming up to me and talking about rugby.
"And it's great that people were either recognising me or recognising that I'm probably involved in rugby.
"There's not too many people that are 6ft 4in with a busted-up nose like mine that haven't played rugby!
"So people have been coming up and speaking to me, and everyone's been really supportive.
"It's great to be back at a top club at the very top-end of the game. It's a great stadium, with fantastic stabilities, a great squad and superb fans.
"It was a totally different situation in Newcastle, and it was a totally new situation in terms of the team as well.
"I'd always coached at clubs that were generally quite successful.
"It was fantastic at Newcastle, it was great to have a fresh challenge. I needed to get out of the goldfish bowl of South Wales.
"We knew what we were up against, Alan Tait knew the budget and the situation, and we embraced it.
"But we also knew we had to have our very best XV on the field and in top condition playing their best rugby for us to be competitive.
"It was a superb challenge, and we had a great group of guys up there who worked very hard to make a success of it.
"I think it definitely improved me as a coach.
"It makes you look at the game in a very different way. It makes you analyse tinier and tinier details, makes you examine yourself and your own methods too.
"And hopefully you improve from that.
"Of course it was a huge challenge, but that was one of the best things about it.
"Now hopefully that experience will help me make a success of our aims and ambitions here."
Newcastle exploited the Kingsholm factor to their own advantage when they slugged past the Cherry and Whites 29-20 at the tail-end of last term.
Moriarty said the Falcons knew they could benefit from Gloucester fans' unrest if the home team failed to fire.
When Newcastle squeezed out-of-sorts Gloucester the Kingsholm faithful's uneasiness compounded the misery.
Now Moriarty is keen for Gloucester to respect the Kingsholm effect and channel that fan power to their advantage.
He continued: "The crowd and the fans at Gloucester are absolutely superb, and everyone certainly feeds off that and appreciates it hugely.
"But we also know that can be a double-edged sword, because if things aren't going well then totally understandably they make their feelings known.
"At Newcastle when we came down at the end of last season we knew that if we could unsettle things and go well then the crowd would get restless and get on Gloucester's back a little bit.
"It worked for Newcastle that day, and we have to be aware of the fact that opponents will always try to do that.
"So it's important to give the fans what they deserve, which is good rugby and victories, but it's also important to remember that we need to earn their backing.
"What is fantastic is the dedication of the fans, though, because they will be at the next game, they will turn out in force, even if things don't go the way they wanted.
"That's a powerful thing, and we need to respect that and harness it to our advantage."
FOOTBALL provided the unlikely common ground for Paul Moriarty's long-standing friendship with Nigel Davies.
Swansea loose forward Moriarty and Llanelli centre Davies kept bumping into each other on Sunday mornings – at Swansea City's academy.
Now Ross Moriarty is a back-rower in the Gloucester academy and Sam Davies is a fly-half at the Ospreys.
Moriarty first worked with Davies at the Scarlets when the Welsh game turned regional.
And he said another twist of fate reunited the long-term friends at Kingsholm.
Moriarty explained: "I first met Nigel when we were both watching our sons play football in Swansea.
"Both our boys were in the Swansea City academy at the same time, and now obviously Ross is in the Gloucester academy and Nigel's son Sam is in the Ospreys set-up.
"So Sunday mornings we would tend to run into each other at matches and we hit it off, we always got on well.
"We stayed in touch, and then as a quirk of fate I ended up at the Scarlets when the Welsh regions were created.
"I talked to Nigel often while I was at Newcastle, so we would talk about whatever was going on.
"Then it just came up in conversation that he would be looking for a defence coach, once the Gloucester role came about for him.
"Throughout everything I had expected to be retained at Newcastle, that was the plan and that was what I'd been told.
"But then everything changed quite quickly, and at the same time as things changed at Newcastle I had that conversation with Nigel.
"He said he would be looking, but that obviously I wouldn't be available and I told him it was probably going to happen that I would be actually. And things moved forward from there."
Moriarty's direct coaching style suits Gloucester's backroom staff blend.
And already the squad have picked up on that no-nonsense method.
Dubbed 'Sarge' because of his regimented approach, Moriarty said provided the wins start flowing, the players can call him what they want.
He added: "Jonny May started saying something but I don't really know too much about it all.
"To be honest as long as we are winnings games they can call me what they like! A few of them have tried taking the mick out of me at various points and I've been telling them that at some point there will be a wet Tuesday afternoon when I am taking a session where they might not still fancy piping up.
"They might be smiling now, but I've told them let's just see who is smiling after that!"