Russell Earnshaw: International vs Club Coaching
1) Twelve Driving Lineouts Per Week
International coaching exaggerates the problem of set-piece coaching and the limited time available with players. With a test match at the end of the week, England would typically do twelve driving lineouts under Eddie during training. For coaches, noticing skills, knowing where to stand and adapting to players' strengths becomes crucial when you have players from a multitude of clubs who defend differently. If England do more lineouts, then there would be a trade off for other parts of the game. Steve Borthwick will have to solve that dilemma and it will be a significant departure from his time at Leicester. In club land, with more players and lower intensity games, the number of driving line outs would be much higher at a club like the Tigers which is founded on strong set piece.
2) Internal Tactical Warfare
Normally, you want to set tactical problems for your opponent but when Saints play different to Leicester who play differently to Bristol who play differently to Saracens then coaches need to be expert negotiators (unless they choose to do the game plan to the players rather than with them and co-develop it). On the pitch, perception-based questions to ensure people know where to look and why become really high-value as do coffee conversations with key players to get them looking for the same stuff when they see a picture in front of them. When the ball comes out of a sideline ruck, Marcus and Fordy need to see the same clues in front of them rather than singing from different hymn sheets.
200 EQP's play every weekend and so when England don't pick Ben Earl for 5 matches, he misses out on a huge amount of learning and connection with new players in the test match arena. With 10 Premiership clubs and international cohesion a constant challenge, you can ill-afford to get it wrong. When NZ won in 2015, McCaw and Carter had played 103 international games together, Nonu and Smith 62, Retallick and Whitelock 43. Team Work Index (TWI) becomes critical at international level where 5 matches is half a year whereas at club it might be one sixth.
4) Everyone Wants to be There and the Balls are Pumped Up
Coaching England 7's, 18's and 20's was the easiest job in the world. There were skilful players, excited to be there, nice kit and the balls are pumped up. For the full England team, throw in a hefty bonus and you have a group that (usually) want to be there. In clubland there is more diversity with players who have not been selected for weeks, are long-term injured, are out on loan for parts of the week. As a coach, your ability to keep everyone connected and feeling like they belong is tested.
5) You Might Feel Married
I loved sharing a room on tour. It became my second family. I would often spending more time with fellow coaches than my actual family. Fletcher, Walts, Coops, Banjo, Caz, Luc, Nadine, Penny, Charlotte, Luffers, Brett, Rich, Pezza, Kate and many more were described as 'rugby wives' by my actual wife. We had dinner together, shared incredible experiences and remain close to this day. At times, little things become very big things and it felt like how I imagine divorce might feel. Throw in 900 million watching you at a World Cup and being front page news, cracks can quickly become crevasses without paying attention to the cohesion of the management team when there is nowhere to escape.
6) What One Thing Will Unlock the Next Level?
Eddie's approach to training helped bridge the gap between the club game and the international game, he realised this was a crucial component and worked out WITTW (What It Takes To Win) and went after it. The outcome was 18 wins on the bounce and several injured players (one of the benefits of international coaching is there are another 185 more EQP's playing every week!). In addition, international coaches need to be much more aware of imagining the game of the future as there is way more innovation in the international than club game due to prolonged periods of time off to experiment (think Japan aiming for 40 minutes ball in play, the Boks with the 7-1 split and Italy's defensive traps).
7) When Do You Practice Coaching?
John Fletcher and myself coached three months after leaving the RFU and I had to walk off the pitch and have a word with myself. The reality was we hadn't practiced together in 90 days and it showed. Club coaches work together almost ever day, planning, reviewing and watching footage. International coaches need to think of the build-up to a campaign as a pre-season and experiment and hone their co-coaching craft ready to rock it on day one and move forward from there with feedback, reflection and deliberate practice
8) How Can You Use the Crowd?
When 82k people are on your side and you're riding the wave, remarkable things are possible. Just ask Trea Turner! The baseball player was on a horrific run of form and to turn things around the fans organised to give him a standing ovation. Turner hit three home runs that match! As well as coaching, you've got to work out how to harness the power of the crowd (or nation) through the media, storytelling and the way you play.
Find Russell's coaching app at rockitrugby.co.uk.