The Ospreys will introduce a new-look coaching team this week as they switch their focus to the LV= Cup for two games.
Forwards Coach Jonathan Humphreys will step up the role of Head Coach for this period, a role he experienced for the first time in the same competition in January of this year.
He will be joined for the week by Skills Coach, and newly appointed Wales U18 coach, Gruff Rees, who will act as Backs Coach, while Ospreys centurion Steve Tandy, now Head Coach at Bridgend RFC and a Player Development Officer with the region, has been handed the opportunity to take over the reins from Humphreys as Forwards Coach.
Part of the region’s forward thinking coach development programme, the changes are aimed at helping to create a sustainable region on and off the pitch, by affording coaches on the pathway the opportunity to expand their knowledge through ‘on the job’ training at the cutting edge of professional rugby.
It’s the second time that Humphreys has been handed the opportunity to take the Head Coach role after a similar experience in the same competition last season, and he says that it’s a fantastic opportunity that the trio of coaches are excited about:
“I’m really looking forward to it” he said.
“It’s part of the development programme that we have at the Ospreys, which gives coaches right the way through our organisation the opportunity to get the chance to do things you wouldn’t normally be able to. With that comes a load of different responsibilities, but it’s a challenge that I know all of us on the LV= Cup coaching team are looking forward to.
“It’s a good competition, we’ve got a chance to take a closer look at the next generation of Ospreys to come through, on and off the pitch, and hopefully we’ll see a few who will start to challenge the more established boys off the back of these next few weeks.”
As the senior figure in the new-look coaching team, the weight of expectation will fall on Humphreys over the new few weeks, but he says that the structures already in place and the support of the Ospreys organisation will make it a highly beneficial period for all concerned:
“We have a review process in place as standard here, everything we do week in, week out, is looked at, reviewed, and the goals, performance etc, everything, is thoroughly reviewed and assessed, as per usual. This will be no different.
“The board, Andrew Hore in his role, and the likes of Scott Johnson and Sean Holley are all fully behind this initiative and have fully bought into the programme. As such, they will play a big part in the review process and once the two games are out of the way we’ll sit down and look at every aspect of how it has gone, good and bad. There’s no hiding place.
“It was a fantastic process last year, one that I found a massive benefit and obviously going into these two weeks I know that I have things to work on in order to improve on last year. To be able to get this kind of experience is a live situation is great. Plenty of people in the game have a desire to be Head Coach eventually, but to do that you need experience at the sharp end and that’s the difficult thing. How do you get that experience? The coach development system that is in place at the Ospreys allows people to do that, all the way through the organisation.
“By stepping up like this in an environment that is designed to challenge you, but with the full support of those around you, it will create better coaches at every level who have valuable experience they wouldn’t otherwise be able to benefit from.”
Although only stepping up for these roles for a matter of weeks, all three coaches will point to a wide range of personal experiences which they can bring into the environment for the LV= Cup campaign, and Humphreys insists that the expectation on them, and the squad, will remain as high as ever:
“These guys, like me, will look at different areas of the game than they may do in their regular roles. It will take them out of their comfort zone and for this period it will be my job to make sure that everything is in place. We have a pretty thorough review and preview process for each game anyway, which I am a part of in my regular job, and I’ll need to give the support and guidance to make sure that Gruff and Steve can do as good a job as possible.
“It’s going to be an interesting time for us all, a really different challenge to what we’ve been used to. Newcastle away on the Saturday then Leicester home the following Friday is a schedule that would test anyone. We have to look at the opposition, plan the fortnight, and be aware of potential issues. With travel, it’s a pretty quick turnaround and we have to be on the ball, but we’ve got a group of boys that are really busting a gut to get out there and show what they can do.
“I’ll be making sure that we treat the game exactly the same as we would a European week. We want the same focus, the same intensity and the same level of performances.”
Ospreys Elite Performance Director, Andrew Hore, said that the experience of the next few weeks would have a huge benefit to the Ospreys over a longer term:
“We have made our long term commitment to developing the best talent from within the region absolutely clear, be it players, coaches or administrators, and the experience that Jonathan, Gruff and Steve will get this month is evidence of that. In turn, other coaches, including the likes of Filo Tiatia, will get the opportunity to step up in this competition as well.
“Our coach development pathway is now well established, and as part of the long term development of coaches we have already seen a number of initiatives put in place, including allowing age-grade and district coaching teams to shadow our senior coaching team through the whole match process, preparation, game day and review. We also have a number of other initiatives in place to help grow coaches at every level. Our mantra is that better coaches equal better players and our actions back up our words.
“It is vitally important that we don’t just focus on coaches outside of the professional environment, ignoring the development needs of some of our more senior coaches. For us to create long-term sustainable success at the region, we have to work hard to ensure that everybody in the organisation is afforded the opportunity to develop fully, and this is just one step towards that.”