Last Friday, on a dank, dismal afternoon at Carrington, with most of the Sale Sharks' squad long gone after training, a small group was huddled in the murk out on the field. Enquiries revealed that it was a session run by RFU coaches, in preparation for a Level 2 coaching qualification course. The members of the course? Sharks players Rob Miller, Marc Jones, Mark Easter, Dwayne Peel, James Gaskell, James Doyle, Tom Brady, Andrei Ostrikov, Will Cliff, Vadim Cobilas, Joe Ward and conditioner Andrew Jibson.
RFU coach Dave Livesey explained, "They're on an IRB 'Rugby Ready' session, a three-hour long mandatory part of the course dealing with Health & Safety. Any coach is compelled to cover this vital aspect of the game. It entails looking at the safety aspects of scrummaging, ruck, lineout and the tackle, through basics, looking at how they would coach young players.
"On Wednesday, they'll start their Pro Players Level 2 course, coaching the 15-a-side game."
Dave was in attendance last Friday, with Simon Verbickas and Jason Duffy. This week, Phil Clarke will lead the course, along with tutors Richard Metcalf and Kevin Greaves.
The theme was definitely one of "getting the message across". There was a moment of particular interest when the group was split into three sub-groups. In one, Dwayne Peel was asked to coach speaking only Welsh, in the next Vadim Cobilas was told to issue instructions in Russian, whilst in the third Joe Ward was forbidden to speak!
Tim Nicholls, Head Player Development Manager of the Rugby Players' Association (RPA) with responsibility for the players of Sale Sharks and Worcester Warriors, added, "Part of the Player Development Programme is to encourage players to look at their interests outside rugby. A number of players are interested in coaching, so putting on a Level 2 course in conjunction with the RFUand the club is a really important activity to provide, given that the schedules are quite busy. What we've done is lay on a customised course for the lads. They're completing all the necessary pre-requisites for the course, then doing the work leading up to qualification. We've got a number of children coming in, so the players can actually 'practise' on them. I think they'll enjoy it."
Sale Sharks full back Rob Miller said, "The RPA have arranged this course for us in liaison with the guys from the RFU. The course will be on three of our days off before Christmas. It's always good to have on one's CV. I'm sure we'll all learn and enjoy!"
Back five forward James Gaskell added, "This course is something to keep us ticking and give us something to work with after rugby, whether that's coaching or in the fitness industry. It's a bit of 'craic' with the boys and is good fun. It will also help us to get the right message across to children when we visit schools and clubs. It will make them interact rather than us just telling them what to do. Sometimes, we can get carried away, thinking that they understand what we do here. It's about taking the game down to basics. We can train youngsters, not get over technical and enthuse the next 'stars'."
"Straight backs!" Tom Brady and Joe Ward advise Rob Miller and Dwayne Peel on the finer points at scrum time. Former Jet Jason Duffy (RFU & Broughton Park coach) is on the right.