WRU Elite Coach Development Manager Geraint John is working to support Premiership coaches in their role to develop quality players and improve the brand of Principality Premiership rugby.
Since joining the Welsh Rugby Union in September, John has conducted a statistical analysis of the League, in particular looking at the effect of the Law Trials currently in place in the division, and is looking to extend that study by utilising GPS equipment on players to assess running speed and intensity. He is in the process of engaging with the Premiership coaches and has invited them to an on-going series of coach development opportunities, starting with a coach development evening in February when they will have the opportunity to observe the Wales Under 20 coaches and players preparing for Wales v France.
In conjunction with John and National Performance Manager Gethin Watts, the three WRU international skills coaches Jason Strange, Geraint Lewis and Chris Horsman have also worked closely with the coaches and squads of the Regional Premiership Select XVs in recent months to help the coaches, many of whom have stepped up to the British & Irish Cup coaching teams from Principality Premiership clubs such as Gareth Wyatt of Pontypridd and the Blues Regional Select XV and Dai Flanagan of Llanelli and the Scarlets Regional Select XV.
John said: “The Principality Premiership is a well-trodden route to regional and international rugby. We have seen that in the past with the likes of Jamie Roberts, Andrew Coombs, Rhys Priestland and James Hook, and more recently Tyler Morgan from Newport, James Davies from Carmarthen Quins and Jarrod Evans, Dillon Lewis and Liam Belcher who have come through the ranks at Pontypridd and are now making their mark with the Blues.
“It’s a critical pathway for players to develop into regional and international players,” added John, “and therefore it’s important we do as much as we can to develop the quality and brand of rugby played at this level and support the coaches in delivering that.”
The analysis found that the average number of tries per match over that period was 6.4 which is an increase of 0.9 per match compared to last season’s average, and 1.4 compared to 2013/14.
It also found that the number of penalties per game has increased to 25.1 from 23.6 last season and from 22.4 in season 2013/14, but the number of yellow cards per game is fairly consistent at 1.8.
The number of line-outs per game has gone up to 29.9 from 25.4 last season and 24.8 in 2013/14 but the number of line-out drives has stayed fairly constant. The key difference is in teams’ decision-making after being awarded a penalty in the attacking half. Teams now kick to touch 65% of the time compared to 30% last season and 34% in 2013/14. The option of kicking for goal has decreased dramatically to 12% from 44% last season and 51% in 2013/14, while the shape of the game for half backs has stayed fairly constant.
John said, “The analysis is not conclusive with regards to any clear advantages or disadvantage of the Law Trials at this time. While, there are more tries, there are more line-outs so the impact on creating a wider, more attacking game is not clear at this stage. In my view, it’s more about working closely with the coaches to ensure we are playing the type of game that best serves our purposes in developing players for the game and to that end we are looking to trial GPS technology to gauge intensity and running speed during Premiership matches.
“We have the advantage over the next couple of years that the Premiership will be ring-fenced so we can perhaps look at how best we can improve the product for the benefit of the players, coaches and supporters too without the pressure of relegation.
“I’m certainly buoyed by the enthusiasm of the Premiership coaches and clubs to better themselves and as a result, their players and I look forward to collaborating more closely with them as we move forward.”