Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

The Methods of the World’s Top Rugby Coaches by David Clarke

Here is a fantastic article published this weekend in the South African Independent on Saturday by Peter Bills.

It shows us that the world’s best coaches give the players a lot more freedom to express themselves than previous eras of coaches.

De Villiers, Deans can change rugby

June 07 2008


By Peter Bills


The stagnation of world rugby, a reality confirmed by the recent World Cup and the Six Nations tournaments in the northern hemisphere, could be resolved in 2008’s Tri-Nations Championship.


The arrival of Robbie Deans as the new coach of Australia this week and Peter de Villiers’s innovative hand on the controls in South African rugby, offers the game the opportunity to make overdue progress.


Deans can lead the way in kick-starting international rugby in his first job as a national coach.


Of the other countries in world rugby, only South Africa under Peter de Villiers looks to have much of a chance of matching Deans’ likely progress, perhaps kicking off on Saturday against Wales in Bloemfontein.


Like Deans, De Villiers understands the need to broaden his country’s game, to expand players’ personal horizons. The Springboks won the 2007 World Cup with blinkers on, playing a rigidly constructed game that had little vision or intuitive skill attached to it.


It seems to me that one man can lead a much needed campaign to take rugby union on to a brighter, better plateau.


That man is Robbie Deans. True, his Crusaders team won last weekend’s Super 14 final through a watertight defence. But Deans has the vision, the capacity in his embrace of the game to play another way, in another style.


The Crusaders’ success has been hallmarked by the players’ phenomenal support for the ball carrier. Options are myriad for the man in possession; to his left, his right or behind. Passes are given in the secure knowledge that a colleague will take the ball and make further progress.


Under Deans, the Crusaders understand the great value of off-loading in the tackle, of extending the movement by seeking width and ensuring continuity through a pass. Support is axiomatic and this continuity is the key to breaking down modern day tight defences.


Deans will bring a vibrant, challenging mind to the job of coaching the Wallabies. He will ask questions of players, demand they accept greater responsibility and make their own decisions on the field. All of which De Villiers is already demanding of the Springboks. He is right to do so for this is surely the way forward.


Ironically, it could be New Zealand who will lag behind this year, as their southern hemisphere rivals seek to broaden their horizons. New Zealand has lost some talented players of the highest calibre and the loss will be keenly felt, not least during this Tri-Nations campaign.


If ever South Africa had an opportunity to win in the All Blacks’ backyard it is surely next month.


I fear we will look in vain to the northern hemisphere to lead the game out of this current pit of mediocrity. France are all over the place, a disparate group of players under a new coach. Wales are Six Nations Champions but their pragmatic coach Warren Gatland admits he still does not yet know the extent of their capabilities, despite a Grand Slam in his first season in charge.


Ireland, too, has a new coach, or will have in September. Declan Kidney has replaced Eddie O’Sullivan but he isn’t on the end-of-season tour to New Zealand and Australia.


How wonderfully Irish is that? Wouldn’t he have learned something about some players had he made the trip?


England remains an enigma, driven by internal strife. Like Kidney, Martin Johnson is not touring to New Zealand this summer; hence, his future impact remains unknown.


None of these nations is equipped to forge a new path for the game worldwide. For that, we must look to innovative coaches, men of proper vision steeped in rugby knowledge.


The rugby played by Graham Henry’s teams in the past would suit but elsewhere, only Deans and De Villiers look remotely qualified on that front. We must hope that the intrinsic pressures of their respective posts does not inhibit them in this task.


World rugby urgently needs a new order, a new way. Australia and South Africa could lead that charge by the excellence and innovation of their play in 2008.


Whether New Zealand can join them, given such significant changes in playing personnel, will be fascinating to discover, maybe starting on Saturday morning against Ireland in Wellington.



This article was originally published on page 24 of The Independent on Saturday on June 07, 2008





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