Former Gloucester Director of Rugby Nigel Melville once beautifully described Peter Buxton’s approach to training as that of “a one man wrecking crew.” Injuries would often involve collisions with the versatile forward, who was one of the Premiership’s most honest and enthusiastic performers for more than a decade.
He walked off the field at Exeter in May expecting his playing career to resume next weekend in the Championship with Bristol, but instead he’s back at Gloucester, having called time on playing in favour of a new role as Academy Manager at Kingsholm.
“I had to be honest with myself and think whether I could play up the standards I had done in the past” he told me. “I had gone to Bristol to train and to play, and I’d enjoyed the training and there is a really good bunch of people there but I could see it was going to take a lot of time to get ready for games because I’m 35 now.”
“I saw the job and applied without really thinking what I would do if I got it. I only started contemplating that when I was offered it. It was then a really difficult 7-10 days and being able to stay at Gloucester was a big part in that decision process. I wasn’t convinced that if I played somewhere else I could find that same level of intensity.”
Buxton has already done his level 3 coaching badge and for the last two seasons been involved two nights a week with local clubs in Cheltenham. He had first played in the Cheltenham under 10’s and progressed all the way through to the Colts side. Several of that group are still close friends today, and it’s that same age bracket which Buxton is now responsible for.
“I’ve always wanted to coach in some capacity, and I wondered when the next opportunity might come along if I didn’t take this one. I don’t mind admitting my IT skills are being put under pressure, and the guys are having to be patient with me, but I try and coach in a practical way, a way I would understand.”
“We’ve got an outstanding crop of under 18’s and the 17’s are a good group of kids who show enthusiasm and passion whenever they play” he went on. “That’s a great start point. My driver is to get local players into a Gloucester shirt at first team level if I can, and give them the best possible support.”
“I’ve had that experience of being a local player coming through the system and it’s special. We’re also starting a scheme for under 13’s and 14’s to get talented boys in as early as possible.”
Buxton’s body has had, as well as caused, a fair few injuries. He cites the thumb he dislocated in a Premiership final against Leicester and a stress fracture in his heel as the worst, but he enjoyed some high points too, like the first League win at Bath after so many near things. He also appreciates the game is about a blend of skills, and in any fantasy team Buxton would select former team mates James Forrester and James Simpson Daniel.
“Django (Forrester) had the ability to play the situtation as he saw it in front of him. He was good enough defensively but he was an amazing attacker, and Sinbad’s the same. He can do things on the field that make the younger players look up to him.”
Spend any length of time in Buxton’s company and you realise what a no-frills man he is. He doesn’t do fancy, but from Nigel Melville, who signed him, through to Nigel Davies, all the coaches would know Buxton would never let them down. His own view is that he played his best rugby under Dean Ryan and Bryan Redpath and that,surprisingly to me, he enjoyed his rugby more in the second row at 4
than in the back row. It was an opinion delivered with typical frankness.
So what of the future ?
“The Academy boys have to understand how mentally and physically demanding being a top player is. The Academy is there to develop talent with as big a skill set as possible, and for them to be able to step up to senior level. Part of that is about results. We want a group of kids that are used to winning in a Gloucester shirt – a talented group, but also a group of winners.”
No-one, techncially challenged or not, will try harder than Peter Buxton to see that through.
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