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10 rugby coaches that bounced back after getting the sack

By Josh Raisey
Ugo Mola and Stuart Lancaster (Getty Images)

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There are some rugby coaches that have never recovered from being sacked, and it altogether ended their careers. There are many, however, who have dusted themselves off and bounced back, so much so that past failings are quickly forgotten. With those in mind, here are the ten rugby coaches that bounced back after getting the sack:


Stuart Lancaster

After England were unceremoniously dumped out of their own Rugby World Cup in 2015 in the pool stages, there was only one outcome for head coach Stuart Lancaster, and he left by mutual consent that November.

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The Top 14 could have hit a major hurdle in their bid to return.
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The Top 14 could have hit a major hurdle in their bid to return.

He joined the Leinster coaching team in September 2016, working with Leo Cullen, and his career has blossomed since then, winning the Champions Cup in 2018 and back-to-back Guinness Pro14 titles.

Richard Cockerill

In January 2017, Richard Cockerill’s 25-year association with Leicester Tigers as a player and a coach came to an end when he was sacked following a rare slump for the club.

The former hooker had a brief stint in Toulon, before taking charge of Edinburgh at the beginning of the 2017/18 season. He has since led a revival in the Scottish capital, with his side sitting top of the Pro14 Conference B before the coronavirus suspension, whilst Leicester’s fortunes have not improved.


Ugo Mola

In a partnership with Régis Sonnes, Ugo Mola is now the man spearheading Toulouse’s return to the top of European rugby having won the Top 14 last season. However, his resume is not all that flattering, having been dismissed by Castres in December 2007. The former France international’s time with Toulouse has not been plain sailing either, and his job was in jeopardy after a 12th place finish in 2017, but the French giants look to be returning to their glory days.

Mark McCall

The man who replaced Mola at Castres, Mark McCall (alongside Jeremy Davidson), had recently seen his time in charge of Ulster end in tatters. While he did not actually get sacked, rather he resigned, his future at Ravenhill was in serious peril.


He joined Saracens in 2009 as part of Brendan Venter’s coaching team, and the rest is history. He took over the team midway though the 2010/11 season after the South African left, and has guided the London side to five Premiership titles and three Champions Cups.

Fabien Galthié

Having butted heads with the club’s brass during his time with Montpellier, Fabien Galthié was dismissed midway through the 2014/15 season, bringing to an end a four-year association with them.
Now the man in control of a French rejuvenation after being given the reins of the team after the RWC, having worked under Jacques Brunel, the former France captain has not been set back by his spell in the south of France.

Eddie Jones

Despite a runners-up medal at the 2003 RWC, Eddie Jones was sacked by Australia in December 2005. Since then, he has been a bit of a nomad of world rugby, finding a lot of success on his travels though.
A technical director for the Springboks at the 2007 RWC, the mastermind of Japan’s heroics at the 2015 RWC, and now England’s head coach leading them to the final in Japan last year, Jones has gone from strength to strength after his sacking.

John Mitchell

Following the All Blacks‘ semi-final loss to the Wallabies at the 2003 RWC, head coach John Mitchell was sacked, which led to a spate of jobs over the succeeding years in New Zealand, South Africa, England and the United States.

He was brought in to the England coaching setup in 2018 under Jones to help stop the rot during a tough year. He has since revived England, and has been one of the main reasons behind their resurgence and path to the RWC final.

Michael Cheika

Sandwiched between his successful stints with Leinster and the New South Wales Waratahs, winning the Heineken Cup and Super Rugby with both, Michael Cheika had a less-than-glamorous two-year stint with Stade Francais, which ended with his sacking in 2012.

He became Wallabies coach in 2014, which he held until 2019, during which time he won the Rugby Championship, made the RWC final, and was crowned the World Rugby coach of the year.

Warren Gatland

Given his three Grand Slams with Wales, a further Six Nations title, a series win and a draw with the British and Irish Lions, and even his three Premiership titles and a Heineken Cup with Wasps, it is easy to forget that Warren Gatland was Ireland’s coach at the beginning of the century.

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Warren Gatland won it all in the 2012 Six Nations with Wales – now he is attempting to clinch his third Grand Slam triumph on Saturday (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

The current Chiefs coach was in charge of Ireland between 1998-2001, but was surprisingly sacked in the November of 2001 in the face of overseeing an improvement by the team.

Graham Henry

Despite a brilliant start to his time as head coach of Wales in 1998, Graham Henry’s tenure slowly unravelled, culminating in him leaving his post in February 2002 after a record 54-10 loss to Ireland.
He became the All Blacks’ head coach in 2004, and was the architect of the team’s domination of rugby over the next decade and beyond, retiring after the victorious 2011 RWC.


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