Despite it being more than 20 years since rugby went professional, it isn’t a sport now where there are endless “jobs for the boys.” While retiring footballers might look at management because of the openings created by a high turnover, and leading cricketers seem to end up in the media in various guises – some are excellent writers, for example – rugby players, perhaps thanks in no small measure to the work of the RPA, often look elsewhere. Ultimately though, many stay in touch with the game because of the buzz it gave them.
It was the loss of that raw emotion that drew former England scrum half Peter Richards back to it having retired early because of injury. Now 37, the former Gloucester number nine is Director of Rugby at London Scottish, having initially joined the club as a backs coach.
“As a player, especially as an older player, coaching seems easy because you have a lot of knowledge in your head” said Richards. “I had experience of playing 7’s which gives me an identity of space and being a scrum half you have a grounding both of the set piece for the forwards and the attacking shape for the backs. Putting moves together is one thing but there is far more to the job than that.”
“The man management is the biggest challenge. We have 35 players all with different needs and personalities. It’s about managing expectation because 35 into 22 on a Saturday doesn’t go. Some of those conversations are hard especially because the security isn’t there as it is in the Premiership and contracts are shorter. We’ve had a high turnover of players and the same will be the case this summer. I will have a bigger say in recruitment this year in terms of bringing people in and recruiting is another big part of the job. It’s very time consuming but also exciting.”
I’ve seen quite a few Championship games this season, including one in October where London Scottish were beaten at home by Jersey. My last visit to the Richmond Athletic Ground prior to that day had been for the County Championship Final in 1976, when Peter Butler scored all Gloucestershire’s points in a 24-9 win over Middlesex. Very little had changed in the intervening time, and Richards understands London Scottish have to develop on all fronts to think in terms of becoming a Premiership club.
“It’s pretty old school at the moment, but there is talk of a two year redevelopment” said Richards. “That will make it a better set-up and the club must be sustainable. We finished 3rd last season but realistically we didn’t want to go up because we weren’t ready. You saw what happened at London Welsh and I think there was a harsh lesson to be learned from their experience.”
“Getting things right off the field is crucial, and I look at Bristol and I see a club destined for the Premiership. They have the resources and they have been consistently the best team for the last two seasons but it’s been well documented they have struggled in the play offs. We’ve had some funny form this season and are a bit too far away but the likes of Yorkshire Carnegie, Doncaster and Bedford will be excited by the underdog tag and would relish the chance to turn them over.”
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