"Rugby IQ" of next-gen stars on agenda at new coaching conference

by Iain Payten

Prevention is better than a cure. 

That’s the basic philosophy behind a series of coaching conferences in Brisbane and Sydney over the next month that will see the coaches of elite schoolboys and club players gather for education sessions.

Titled “Making our best players better”, the conferences - put on by Rugby Australia, and Queensland and NSW Rugby - will see coaches of schools first XVs, first-grade colts and first grade premier rugby coaches attend three-day courses, where Super Rugby coaches and Stephen Larkham will give presentations.

Forty coaches will attend the first free course in Brisbane, which begins on Friday, and around the same number is expected in Sydney on March 22-24.

A key goal of the courses, according to RugbyAU national talent manager Adrian Thompson, is to ensure the “rugby IQ” of players at all levels below the professional and rep levels of the game, is best practice.

Areas of focus, said Thomson, were identified by looking at the weak points of players when they’ve been selected to step up, and the subtle blame game that follows.

"It came out if myself and (Junior Wallabies coach) Jason Gilmore’s desire to regenerate a curriculum, for want of a better word, that can be driven down through our best programs,” Thompson said. 

"So we started looking at what we thought were gaps in terms of players’ footy IQ and rugby IQ when they came into our programs. And Super coaches talk about similar things. 

"I think there is a risk that we all blame the level below, saying “it’s somebody else’s fault” instead of that we all need to collectively work to address that.

"We thought we would run these conferences targeting the coaches who coach the kids we see, who ultimately end up Super Rugby players."

Nudgee beat out TSS to win the Queensland GPS comp. Photo: Brody GroganReds coach Jim McKay, Larkham, Gilmore, Paul Carozza, and former Rebels coach Tony McGahan are all set to speak at the conference in Brisbane this weekend. Coaches will be given Saturday afternoon off to lead the club teams in trials, and attend the Reds-Crusaders game together in the evening.

Waratahs assistant Chris Whitaker will also present at the Sydney event.

Thomson said the conference would be as much about generating discussion as a lecture series.

“It is also to generate a lot of discussions around tactical rugby IQ stuff, rather than core skills and conditioning, that we all do a lot of and probably haven’t driven the knowledge and tactical stuff enough,” Thomson said.

“For example, we all talk about structured attack, which we do well, but can we flatten up and play when an opportunity presents itself? Do we identify opportunities or to stick with system, because that’s what we have been brought up to do?

"Defensively, are our back three positioned in places they should be? We go around and watch a lot of younger age stuff where they just don’t. 

"Everyone thinks the level before will do it. Some of those knowledge fields probably haven’t been driven hard enough.”

First XV coaches from the GPS and AIC schools will be present in Brisbane and from GPS, CAS, ISA and sports high schools in Sydney.

Thomson said the idea was for the conferences to be an annual event, where a network of coaches can gather and share their thoughts on trends of the last year.