Daryl Powell might have been the forgotten man at Leeds as they won the Super League title last month, but he will be very much hands-on at Warrington today.
Apart from his role as director of coaching at Headingley, Powell is coach of the Irish side who meet England in the final of the European Nations' Cup. It is a task which should be beyond Ireland's blend of part-timers and amateurs, with a sprinkling of Super League quality, but Powell is glad to be back at the sharp end.
It is a year since he went sideways at Leeds, creating space for Tony Smith as head coach, with the result that the Rhinos won their first title for 32 years. "Things have gone from strength to strength at Leeds, but we expected to win the title this year," he says. "Tony was brought in for a reason and he's done a great job, but we've been building for this for a fair time."
Smith's original two-year contract has been extended to three, giving Powell an extra year in the shadows before returning to his coaching duties. "I was part of the decision-making on that and, in terms of the club and where it's going, it makes sense."
Powell has broadened his experience this year by spending time in Australia and with the England rugby union side. Next season, his portfolio will also involve supervising York, who have entered into a partnership with Leeds.
And yet it is obvious that he misses the direct contact with players. That is where the Irish side comes in. They have beaten Wales and Scotland to set up this meeting with a roll-call of the best young players in Super League.
On paper, Ireland have no chance. Only Barrie McDermott and the Salford pair of Stuart Littler and Karl Fitzpatrick are regular Super League players. At the other end of the scale, they are likely to field two players from the fledgling Irish competition, the Kilkenny winger, Iain Dowling, and Declan Foy from Kerry.
Powell does not expect his greener recruits to be over-awed, because like the game's most notable Irish import, Brian Carney, he believes that there is a wealth of talent in the country. "They have all played rugby union, so they understand the principles. These days, good athletes can come from anywhere and we have to go out and find them. There's certainly an untapped reservoir in Ireland."
Powell is not deluding himself about the step up that will be required today. The Welsh and Scots teams they have vanquished have been similar to the Irish in their mix of playing levels, but the England side are composed of full-time professionalsearmarked as potential Great Britain internationals.
An Irish victory would be a huge shock, but Powell is adamant about one thing. "They won't be able to quell our spirit, because that's the best I've ever come across anywhere. All we can do is play the very best we can and, if you do that, things can happen.
"I still love coaching and I think I've a lot to offer coaching and that I get a pretty good response from players."Reuse content