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Ruddock And Ronaldson Join Lansdowne Coaching Group

Ruddock And Ronaldson Join Lansdowne Coaching Group

Conor Shaw, Lansdowne's 2024/25 President, is pictured with head of strength & conditioning Dan Moore, backs coach Craig Ronaldson, lineout & set play coach Mark Flanagan, head coach Declan Fassbender, assistant coach Rhys Ruddock, head of physiotherapy Aisling Frawley, and Ian Hopkins, the club's Chairman of Rugby

Lansdowne FC have unveiled a dynamic and driven senior Men’s coaching team for the 2024/25 season, with Rhys Ruddock and Craig Ronaldson appointed to key roles under Declan Fassbender.

Fassbender stepped up midway through the 2022/23 season to steady the ship, and recently completed his first full campaign as Lansdowne’s head coach, steering them to Leinster Senior Cup success and the Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1A play-offs.

Having fallen just short against Terenure College in April’s semi-final, there is already huge excitement at the headquarters club about next year and the potential of Fassbender’s young squad to kick on further.

Lansdowne, who were the early season leaders with five wins in their opening seven matches, set a new Division 1A record of 19 bonus points across the campaign, a dozen of which came from tries scores.

The centre pairing of Andy Marks (pictured below) and Rory Parata, ex-London Irish forward Jack Cooke, and hard-carrying South African Hardus van Eeden were among the players to stand out for the fourth-place finishers, along with a talented crop of Under-20s pushing through.

Keen to build on what was achieved this year, Lansdowne have announced that Fassbender is continuing as head coach and will have a new assistant coach in Ruddock, the long-serving Leinster and Ireland back rower who is retiring from professional rugby in the coming weeks.

Craig Ronaldson, who recently hung up his boots with Naas, is returning to Lansdowne as backs coach. He starred at out-half when Lansdowne won their first All-Ireland League title in 2013, as the top flight’s leading points scorer and Player of the Year.

Fellow former professional Mark Flanagan is another important cog in the Lansdowne wheel, continuing as their lineout and set play coach, while prop Adam Boland recently made the transition from playing to become the Dubliners’ new scrum coach.

Ruddock has made no secret of his desire to move into the coaching world, following in the footsteps of his dad Mike who famously coached Lansdowne to that maiden AIL crown, as well guiding Wales to Grand Slam glory, and the Ireland Under-20s to a World Rugby U-20 Championship semi-final appearance.

In recent season, Rhys (33) has managed to combine his Leinster commitments with coaching age-grade teams at both Lansdowne and Leinster. He helped the Lansdowne Under-20s to reach back-to-back Fraser McMullen Cup finals, being crowned champions in 2023.

While still focused on Leinster’s BKT United Rugby Championship play-off challenge, he explained: “I’ve been doing a lot of coaching over the last number of years with Lansdowne Under-20s, and Leinster Under-18 Schools last summer, and been enjoying that journey and that experience.

“I have some opportunities to do a bit of coaching next year, so that was one kind of pull for the decision to not carry on (playing). I suppose just the body being in relatively good shape, but maybe being a little frustrated with the fact they I can’t perform as regularly at the level that I want to.

“I guess the fact that I can get out into the next chapter with a good bill of health considering the amount of time I’ve been playing professional rugby, but also accepting that maybe it’s time to start a new chapter with the body also creeking a small bit.”

He added: “I was coaching the Under-20s at Lansdowne, involved with them the last three seasons. Really excited (to be involved with the senior side).

“It was obviously challenging at times, I ended up head coach of the Lansdowne U-20s the last season-and-a-half, so probably took up a lot of my mental energy, and a lot of time and effort had gone into that, but I loved every minute of it whilst still enjoying my playing.

“It was great to be able to do both but it probably does take a lot out of the tank to do both, so I think that was the natural progression. I was really enjoying and putting more time and effort and energy into the coaching, and something had to give.

“I’m excited about the coaching opportunities and being able to do that without, I suppose, sacrificing the amount of time you put into your own playing and not feeling like you can fulfil your potential in that area. A lot has gone into it.”

Ronaldson (34) is the director of rugby at Wesley College, and has already worked alongside Ruddock when the pair were the respective backs and forwards coaches with the Leinster U-18 Schools team that won the Interprovincial Championship earlier this season.

“After a great few years with Naas and hanging up with the boots, I’m looking forward to the next step in my coaching journey back at Lansdowne,” stated Ronaldson. “A club that I have a lot of great memories and connections with, and hopefully getting to make a few more.”