Carolan settling in to life at Scotstoun
“Anytime I’ve been part of a team travelling to Scotstoun, they’ve made it a really challenging place to come and play – I’m looking forward to having them on my side for once!”
Nigel Carolan laughs as he discusses what he’s looking forward to the most about his first match as a Glasgow Warriors coach. Having experienced the Warrior Nation as a visiting coach with Connacht over the years, he’s keenly anticipating the kick-off of the new United Rugby Championship season.
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It’s the start of a new challenge for the 46-year-old, and the latest step in a rugby journey that – to date – has been firmly steeped in green.
“Connacht is all I’ve really known, to be honest,” explained Carolan.
“I had four or five years playing there, and I was lucky enough to be there while Warren Gatland was in charge. He had a massive influence on me as a player and also as a coach – he’s someone I really admire.
“When I hung up my boots, I’d probably had enough of pro rugby at that time so I did a course in systems analysis and web design – I had a degree in marketing so I thought that was going to set me up well. Things sort of crashed in the mid-2000s though, and I was lucky enough to be offered a role as a development officer with Connacht. At that stage, it was something I thought I’d have a go at, and I’ve never looked back really.
“I was lucky enough to take on the role as Academy Manager at Connacht in 2004 and I loved it. It’s such a rewarding job because you help these players as they start out on their journey, then when you see them making their professional or international debuts – it’s one of the best feelings you can have as a coach.”
Indeed, Carolan’s record of developing young talent is clear for all to see, having worked with current Ireland internationals including Jacob Stockdale and Andrew Porter during a successful stint in charge of Ireland U20 – as well as countless members of a talented Connacht squad – in the last decade.
With the 2021/22 crop of Warriors taking shape, the club’s new Assistant Coach is excited to get stuck into the new campaign, having been sold on the club’s journey by both Head Coach Danny Wilson and Managing Director Al Kellock.
“Moving to Glasgow gives me the chance to step out of my comfort zone and to challenge myself, as well as really grow as a coach,” said Carolan.
“I was really fortunate that this opportunity came up, because there’s a really exciting mix of youth and experience in this squad. Glasgow always play an exciting brand of rugby, too, which is a really good fit for me.
“Playing against Glasgow, I’ve always been really impressed with the club’s style of rugby. It’s always been a real challenge, because you’re facing multiple threats at all times. The other big reason was the fans – they’re so passionate and really get behind their team, and they make Scotstoun a really difficult place to come and play.
“Danny [Wilson] and Al [Kellock] were very clear with their vision for the direction in which they want to take the club, and I just felt like it was a really good fit. It feels like a place you can go and make a real positive difference.”
It wasn’t just the on-field culture at Scotstoun that swayed Carolan’s decision in favour of the Warriors, however. With wife Siobhan and children Milly and Ben joining him in making the move to Glasgow, off-field life is even more important than that in the coaching box.
“It was a really easy decision in the end, especially with the focus this club puts on your family and integrating you into the community away from rugby,” said Carolan.
“That was something that was a huge factor in my decision – it’s so important to me that the next club I moved to embraced us as a family and Glasgow really show that.
“I’d only ever spent short periods of time in Glasgow before moving over, but over the last couple of weeks I’ve had an opportunity to get to know the city. There are some beautiful places in the city, there really are – some of the buildings are breath-taking, and the people have been so accommodating and warm towards me.
“It’s just been a great start to life at the club, really.”