What Thomas came away with after first conversation with Diamond
It’s for sure going to be a situation to watch unfold with intrigue, the appointment by Worcester of the no-nonsense Steve Diamond until the end of this season as their new lead rugby consultant operating above rookie head coach Jonathan Thomas and below director of rugby Alan Solomons. Sparks could well fly. As it stands, with Diamond only set to start work next Monday, all is very much sweetness and light.
The ex-Sale director of rugby has broken bread with Thomas, the pair meeting in person and also holding a number of phone conversations as they lay the groundwork for the remaining winter months and beyond. Publicly, Thomas is portraying an enthusiastic reaction to the appointment.
Diamond’s reputation as a “refreshingly honest and direct” operator are characteristics that the ex-Wales Test back-rower has enjoyed across both his playing and early days coaching career, interacting with names such as Shaun Edwards, Warren Gatland and Pat Lam. And the early impression that Thomas has had off the back of his initial Diamond conversations has left him “really excited” about the coming weeks and months ahead. Only time will tell, though, the success or otherwise of this newly concocted partnership.
In the eyes of Thomas, nothing has changed about the role he has been doing at Worcester since his promotion last January to head coach after he was initially recruited during the 2020 lockdown by Solomons from Bristol to be the defence coach. He quickly oversaw a massive overhaul to the playing roster, some 20-plus players exiting last summer and a whole heap of new recruits arriving in.
However, results have been difficult to come, the Warriors winning just two of the 21 Gallagher Premiership matches they have played with Thomas as their main man and the club has now acted, bringing in another layer of expertise by way of Diamond who will pick up the thread following this weekend’s away game at Newcastle.
It was February 2020 when Chris Ashton and Steve Diamond had a major falling out at Sale… and Diamond is set to now start work at Worcester next Monday#Warriors #Sharks #GallagherPrem
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 23, 2021
How, though, did the need for Diamond at Worcester emerge and who made the first move? “Listen, I have got no idea, I don’t know the answer to that question,” said Thomas when quizzed by RugbyPass at his weekly media briefing. “All I do know is I was reporting to Alan and the owners and that was a private discussion that they had, but in terms of how it came about, I can’t answer that.
“Myself and Steve have got some mutual friends, all of whom speak highly of him, but in terms of personal interactions, no (we don’t know each other). Obviously, I coached against him, but no I haven’t had any personal interactions (until now)… In the short term, he will stay down a few days a week. Steve’s appointment is until the end of the season and decisions will be made in due course.”
It was last December when new Worcester recruit Diamond opted out at Sale after a lengthy stint in charge, a need to recharge the batteries at the core of that decision which was made after some bereavements in his family. How has he bounced back? “He had a real spring in his step when I met him,” confirmed Thomas.
“The thing I came away with from the conversation I had with Steve was he has done his due diligence on the club and he recognises that there is a lot of good people, players and staff, at the club and he recognises there is a lot of good work going on and the biggest thing he said to me is with his experience he feels he can come in and add value.
“Listen, the margins are small between success and failure. It is never huge and sometimes it is the variety and I guess the diverse characters that go into the melting pot that can help the whole and Steve can bring an approach and experience that can add value to Worcester.”
It was the recruitment of a planeload of South African players that eventually added steel to Sale and helped them up the Premiership table to where they are now a club annually contending to make the playoffs. Might that be a tactic Diamond will try and repeat at Worcester?
“Do you want me to answer that? Listen, Steve isn’t in through the door yet so around recruitment he will definitely have input but in terms of our strategy around recruitment, there is not going to be wholesale changes for next season around what we are trying to achieve.
"There are 20 players leaving the club at the end of the season… that has certainly been really tough, some tough conversations"@JonThom82 on the work behind the scenes & the hard calls needed as they rebuild @WorcsWarriors squad, writes @heagneyl ???https://t.co/gjCIa18pmc
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 9, 2021
“In terms of the value you can have in those discussions, myself and Steve along with Alan, we will have those discussions in the next few weeks and behind the scenes, there is already work being done around that. We have got a recruitment analyst in Simon Norris so there is already a lot of work that is going on and Steve coming in is going to be a great asset to assist in that process.
“Every club is different, the dynamic around every club is different so what works for one club doesn’t mean it will work for another club so Steve, when I spoke to him, was very respectful of what is going on and he will come in and just add value to the existing process that is already in place.”
Across the last ten months, Thomas has developed a reputation as an insightful rugby person at his media briefings, talking at length and keenly promoting the Worcester message. He insists the mechanics of his role as head coach on the Sixways shop floor hasn’t changed, that he is still responsible for the preparation of the team, the coaching programme and managing and leading the rugby department with the only difference being that he will now report to somebody different (Diamond and not Solomons).
Will he, though, continue to be the voice of the club or will Diamond feel the urge to court the media and start hosting the weekly Worcester briefings? “We haven’t had any discussions on that. Our strategy around media and our approach is a process that is ongoing and it is a discussion in terms of how we develop and how we deal with you guys is always something we are discussing behind the scenes.
“That is something, along with all other aspects of the rugby programme and the behind the scenes recruitment, our identity, all of those things are always ongoing. That is something that will be discussed at another time.”
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