by Tom Billups, C.S.C.S.
Brett Taylor was a USA Rugby assistant coach with me for 3 seasons, guiding the Eagle backline at the 2003 World Cup. During his time with the Eagles, the team scored four tries in a game ten times, this is far and away the most for any U.S. national team in the history of USA Rugby. Brett previously served England’s Northampton Saints RFC for 14 years as a player and a coach, working under Saints coach Wayne Smith, the former head man for the Canterbury Crusaders and New Zealand. Brett established the Northampton’s Development Academy, working under current Wasps Director of Rugby and past British and Irish Lions coach, Ian McGeechan.
As a player, Taylor represented Scotland U18, U21, and Scotland ‘A’ as well as the Royal Army and the Royal Combined Services and appeared in over 100 games for the Northampton Saints. Brett Taylor now serves as the Director of Rugby and Head Coach at the Richmond Rugby Club, just outside of central London. I called Brett recently to catch up and talk rugby.
Tom Billups: As the head coach of Richmond Rugby Club, where your players juggle careers outside of rugby, how many days a week does your team train and how do you go about planning for the week of training?
Brett Taylor: We train as a club on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, like most rugby clubs in the States. I placed a lot of emphasis on conditioning and core skills (passing, catching, running support lines) this season. I believe that if a team has outstanding individual core skills then a more complex game can be achieved. With the players coming in from central London, I make sure time is set aside for the players to get a good gym session in so we stagger training. Those players that can weight train early start with skill work at 7:15 pm and then the late weights group comes in for the rugby conditioning element at 7:40 pm. The actual rugby session starts at 8:00 pm and goes until 8:50 pm.
This certainly puts pressure on me as the coach to focus on the most important areas of work. I think as a coach when you have a limited amount of time you try and cover everything and eventually get nothing done. Focus on the first and second most important coaching points then move on.
Billups: Acknowledging that Richmond has been fantastic this year, how do you decide what to prioritize or fix next with your team?
Taylor: We have done well this year. Both the 1st team and 2nd team are unbeaten in their respective leagues. Both have now won their leagues, but last year, my first year in this post, was a different story. Then, the second team only won 5 games and the 1st team lost 9 matches. Reflecting on the season, I focused on conditioning, creating a greater understanding of the race to recovery, and players looking after themselves better. Last year I used 62 players in the 1st team, but this year only 35. The consistency of performance allowed by using half as many players has been noticeable. From a technical coaching perspective, I redoubled my focus on doing the simple things at pace. We are striving to build a foundation of performance through set piece and defense. Layer on top of that a simple attacking policy which all players now own and we have gone pretty well. The simplest of moves executed at high velocity will beat the defense.
TB; What has the experience of winning so many matches in one season taught you as a coach?
BT; Don’t take winning for granted, that the hardest thing is to want to keep getting better as a player and coach when you are winning. This has been a huge challenge for the players and staff.
TB; You have had success coaching Americans in rugby during your time with the U.S. National Team, an example being that the Eagles scored a very credible number of tries. How is it different from coaching similar aged Englishmen?
BT; Interesting question! To be really honest the Englishmen has been playing the game since the age of 6, but has gotten into bad habits, so I currently spend a lot of time re-skilling my players. When I was coaching the backs with the Eagles, I likened it to coaching a 16 year old in a man’s body in terms of the rugby skills. Sometimes it was perfect, then the next minute it was awful, because the proper skill was not habitual yet.
I spent my time on hardwiring good core skills and positional skills. The job was made easy by the fact that the USA players had such a hunger and enthusiasm to want to improve.
Tom Billups began his rugby career in 1984 and has spent time as a player in New Zealand, the U.S. and England for domestic teams as well as representing the U.S.A. at international tournaments with the Eagles. After hanging up his boots, Billups got into coaching leading the Eagles and now with University of California – Berkeley. Read the entire bio of Tom Billups as well as Billups first column My Rugby Path and then check out what Billups is saying about the game of rugby in The Billups Column on Rugby Rugby.
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