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'You want a nutcase as defence coach... and that is Mike all over'

By Chris Jones
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

“He is more Chuck Norris than Robert Redford, but we also used to call him Catweazle.” That was the considered verdict of Steve Diamond when encapsulating Mike Forshaw, the assistant coach that Warren Gatland has recruited to shore up the leaky Wales defence for the upcoming Guinness Six Nations.


It was Diamond who gave Forshaw his chance to take charge of a Gallagher Premiership club defence, bringing him to Sale in 2013, and the Sharks former director of rugby is absolutely convinced the ex-Britain rugby league star will, like another Wigan great Shaun Edwards, be a success at international level coaching.

For Diamond, who moved from Sale to take over at Worcester Warriors before they ended up in administration last year, Forshaw has both the personality and the expertise to handle the pressure despite having limited time with the Welsh players before their February 4 opener at home to Ireland. That limited preparation will contrast sharply with the daily sessions that have underpinned Sale’s emergence as one of the powerhouses of English rugby.

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Diamond told RugbyPass: “Mike was highly recommended to me around 2010 but he was in contract and when we met I liked him immediately. While he is more Chuck Norris than Robert Redford, we used to call him Catweazle and what people don’t remember is that Mike had a season at Saracens at the end of his playing career.

“He comes from that Wigan rugby league family of Shaun Edwards, Andy Farrell, Jason Robinson and Paul Deacon (who is also at Sale), but he also played a lot for Bradford and was a great player. More importantly, I can tell you what a great bloke he is.


“As a defence coach, a lot is about personality along with the technical side. You have to believe in the guy who is teaching you defence and really, you want a nutcase as defence coach, someone who is off the wall, and that is Mike all over. As a bloke, he would be at your right hand. At Mike’s age, this is the right time to take this role because, in another World Cup cycle, he would be around 58.


“He has done a great job at Sale and I’m really pleased for him. He is going to be working with Warren Gatland, who worked for a long time with Shaun Edwards. Mike brings his own personality and is a really funny bloke but some of the time he doesn’t realise it and his humour in his presentations is fantastic. He is unique and they only made one when they produced Mike Forshaw – then they broke the mould.”

So what can Wales fans expect from a defence under the control of Forshaw? “They will be well drilled and know the system which Mike will work out with the other coaches,” continued Diamond. “He will always ask the players questions and listen to those responses – and we did have some rough spells under my Sale reign.

“He is now going to a fantastic international set up and as better players come in you become even better at the job. Mike will become an even better defence coach in this role. I don’t think many people knew Shaun when he first went to Wales and, in Wigan, Mike comes from a very similar environment to south Wales: hard-working blokes who love rugby.

“In recent weeks Alex Sanderson (the current Sale director of rugby) has given Mike some opportunities to speak on the TV and there is always a funny quip. Behind the scenes, Mike is bloody hilarious. What Mike learnt very quickly in union is don’t get into the fight unless you are going to win it as a defence, stay on your feet and then go. With Ben and Tom Curry in the team that is how Sale defend.”


Forshaw is also said to be happy to deliver a half-time rollicking if he feels his team isn’t living up to his expectations, although when he tried to galvanise the Sale troops when they were losing heavily at the break at Saracens he didn’t have the impact that was planned.

Diamond added: “He had this piece of paper with all the mistakes on it and decided to screw it up and throw it down in front of the guys in the changing room but as he did that it opened up and gently floated to the floor.

“So he decided to rollick them but he chews gum and as he started it went down the wrong wa. The next thing is he is on his knees with us hitting him on the back. He is a legend and will be speaking Welsh before the Six Nations starts!”

Former Sale skipper Jono Ross worked with Forshaw for nearly six years in Manchester. He is also backing the defence coach to be a big success with Wales. “He is a big personality and his meeting are always entertaining,“ said Ross, the Sharks back-rower who continues to be one of the Premiership’s top defenders.

“He always put smiles on faces and will be massively missed at Sale. He is demanding in terms of what he expects in terms of energy and aggression in his defensive system while keeping you interested with his quirky comments. He has done an incredible job at Sale

“At international level, there are fewer games and the margins are finer but the energy and passion he brings to the job will go down really well with the Welsh. He will definitely get them up and buying into what he does. I have no doubt he will be a success.

“Defences are becoming similar around the world and Mike wants physicality and people to be dominating contact and he expects work rate. We have an aggressive defence at Sale and Wales will be similar. He is a man you want to follow. In terms of his looks he has to be more Chuck Norris.”


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