Finn Russell Matt Williams: Increasing evidence of a stifling conformity in rugby coaching

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The majority of teams in Europe are employing the exact same game plan.

Most teams are using the same tactics inside the same attacking and defensive structures. Many coaches are plagiarising the ideas of other coaches as their match tactics lack the intellectual rigour to create original play.

Some of the problem has its origins within global coach education. Pedagogy is “the method and practice of teaching”. Or how to teach, rather than what to teach. The current emphasis in coach education has moved from what to coach to how to coach. The “pedagogy” has dominance over the rugby content.

How coaches educate and lead their teams is exceptionally important. However, under the law of unintended consequences, this emphasis has led to an epidemic of plagiarism in rugby coaching.

The evidence suggests very few coaches are using innovative tactics with the aim of nullifying their opponents on a game by game basis. The coaches know how to present to their players but they do not have the depth of understanding of rugby tactics to create original plans to attack opponents’ vulnerabilities.

Scott Wisemantel, the former England attack coach, is currently being pursued by the Wallabies to return to his native Australia because he has proven he can create an attacking system that has the flexibility for specific match tactics which can expose an opponents’ weaknesses.

To me that is the essence of tactical coaching. Giving your opponent what they do not want. This is in very short supply in European club rugby.

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