In the wake of Jim Mallinder’s departure from Northampton Saints on Tuesday, the rumour mill has whirred into action around the coaches that could potentially fill the void left at Franklin’s Gardens.
The usual names have all been mentioned, with Mike Ford, Stuart Lancaster and Jake White all linked with the vacancy.
Any of the three could do a fine job but are they the men Northampton want to build around long-term?
The likes of Johan Ackermann and Pat Lam are highly-prized coaches and seem to combine the four key characteristics that club’s want in head coaches and/or directors of rugby. They are innovative, they have an attacking mindset, they are experienced, and they are great team-builders.
With this in mind, we thought we would take a look at five up-and-coming coaches who, whilst not having the experience of Lam or Ackermann, do tick the other boxes.
They might not be the prestigious names that Northampton will have in mind for this role, but they are talented rugby coaches who are worth keeping an eye on over the coming years.
Tom Williams, Harlequins
The former Harlequins player has been on the coaching staff at the club for the last two years and, as Academy Transition Coach, played a key role in moulding the Quins side that won the U18 Academy League last season.
He has helped develop budding stars like Marcus Smith, Gabriel Ibitoye and Joe Marchant and the rugby IQ of the players coming out of the Quins academy is a testament to his ability as a coach.
Joe Shaw, Saracens
Alex Sanderson and Kevin Sorrell rightfully get their praise for helping mastermind Saracens’ march to the top, but what about skills coach Shaw?
The club may be in a wretched run of form right now, but has there been a northern hemisphere side in the professional era that so effectively and so consistently executes the basic skills as well as Saracens? He has clearly had a marked effect, alongside Sorrell, on Saracens’ attacking proficiency over the last few years and would be quite the coup for any side looking for an attack or head coach.
Richard Whiffin, Gloucester
Whiffin, the head of Gloucester’s academy, has had the Gloucester U18 side playing fast, clinically and with no shortage of skill, and is another example of why academy coaches have so many of the qualities that clubs seem to want in their senior coaches.
Academy coaches can’t go out and sign players for their academy, they have to develop and make the most of the talent they have at their disposal. Many of them are excellent candidates as “team-builders” and whilst not being flashy names, they could do excellent jobs if given a chance.
Chim Gale, Worcester Warriors
Another academy manager, Gale has helped turn Worcester’s academy into one of the most productive in the Premiership and has helped produce talents like Jack Singleton, Jamie Shillcock and Will Butler, as well prospects like Ted Hill and Ollie Lawrence, who will make their marks in the coming years.
Gale has experiencing playing and coaching in 7s, something which is becoming a much more valued attribute in prospective senior coaches.
Mark Laycock, Newcastle Falcons
A largely unheralded figure in Newcastle’s dramatic improvements over the last few seasons, Laycock holds the dual role of academy manager and senior skills coach at the Falcons.
As with Shaw and Saracens, the uptick in Newcastle’s ability to execute skills in offensive situations has a lot to do with Laycock and he should be a highly coveted coach for any club looking to develop their attacking game.
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