Who are the best minds in rugby right now? So often the focus in professional rugby union is on the players, but quality coaches can have a colossal impact on teams. We have put together a list of the best coaches from around in the world in both domestic and international rugby and put forward a case for each name being included.
10) Milton Haig
This guy might not be a household name to you if you’re from outside of New Zealand, but Milton Haig has made Georgia a competitive and consistent outfit in every fixture they play. As well as impressing in their pool games at the 2015 World Cup, the Lelos recently took part in their first tour of the Pacific Islands, drawing with Samoa and defeating both Fiji and Tonga. Traditionally these teams are far stronger at home than abroad, and so for Georgia to go through the summer undefeated is most impressive.
9) Gregor Townsend
It’s no surprise to see Glasgow Warriors head coach Townsend being linked with the Lions backroom staff. The former Scottish fly-half has done wonders in turning Glasgow into one of the best teams in the PRO12 and the Warriors have not finished lower than third since he took over, winning the title once and finishing runners-up on another occasion.
Given Townsend has done this by developing local Scottish talent rather than relying on foreign imports speaks volumes about him as a coach.
8) Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers
Both Racing 92 coaches get a mention for their sterling efforts in turning the club into Top 14 champions and runners-up in the Champions Cup last season. Although the Top 14 is packed full of expensive international stars, it is all the more difficult combining talents from various rugby cultures into a cohesive unit, but Labit and Travers have done this with aplomb.
Winning the Top 14 in arguably the most competitive and physically and mentally demanding rugby season in the world tells you everything you need to know about this pair.
7) Rob Baxter
Being the individual he is, Baxter probably would not like to see his name up on a list like this with Exeter Chiefs having yet to taste Premiership or European success; however, he has built up his side from lower league mediocrity to a Premiership final and Champions Cup semi-final in just a few years.
This was achieved by bringing in a few international-quality names but mostly through developing within and this is reflected in the Chiefs’ growing representation in England’s EPS squads.
If the RFU are looking for a replacement for 2020 if Eddie Jones decides to step aside then Baxter might be the perfect man to take the helm at that point.
6) Pat Lam
Former Samoa international Pat Lam achieved some coaching success when he won the ITM Cup with Auckland in 2005 and 2007, but it is Lam’s time at Connacht that has established his name as one of the best coaches in the world right now.
For so long the Irish province have lived in the shadows of rivals Ulster, Leinster and Munster, even being threatened with being rebranded as a ‘development’ team for Irish rugby, but Lam has turned Connacht into PRO12 winners. In each successive season the team has gone from 10th to 7th to 2nd and now champions, highlighting the impact the Samoan has had in the region.
5) Chris Boyd
This year saw New Zealand’s Hurricanes win the Super Rugby title for the first time in their history, with Boyd in charge of the Kiwi franchise. Given that the Hurricanes had lost both Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith to the lure of foreign currency this season, to win the title is a tremendous achievement.
In his first season in charge the Hurricanes had gone from missing the play-offs in 2014 to ending up as runners-up in the 2015 edition of the tournament. Now that the franchise finally has Championship glory Boyd should be heralded as one of the best coaches in the world rugby and will surely be in with a shout to replace All Blacks coach Steve Hansen when he eventually steps down.
4) Ben Ryan
Just three years ago Ryan was resigning as England sevens coach after the RFU and he decided to part ways. Now the Englishman is one of the most sought after coaches in the game after guiding Fiji to two World Series titles and Olympic gold.
Despite now moving on from his position in Fijian rugby, the islanders have embraced him as one of their own; recently he was given the name ‘Ratu Peni Rayani Latianara’ as well as three acres of land in Serua in a special ceremony to celebrate his achievements.
3) Mark McCall
As well as winning the Magners League in 2006, Ulsterman McCall has guided Saracens to three Premiership titles, a Champions Cup title and an Anglo-Welsh Cup win. Whilst Saracens were so often labelled as expensive also-rans, McCall built on the foundations laid by Brendan Venter to transform the club into one of the best in world rugby and helped a plethora of young English players force their way into the England starting line up.
2) Eddie Jones
If you don’t know what Australian Eddie Jones has achieved in recent times, then you probably need to get your head out of the sand.
In addition to the unparalleled achievement of defeating rugby giants (both literal and metaphorical) South Africa with minnows Japan in the 2015 World Cup, Jones has guided England to a first grand slam in 13 years and a 3 – 0 series win against Australia down under. When you consider England had only beaten the Aussies three times in Australia previously in their history, to do the same in the space of three weeks is quite incredible.
1) Steve Hansen
How can anyone else be number one except for Hansen? Part of the All Blacks backroom staff that won the World Cup in 2011, since the Mosgiel-born Hansen took over from Graham Henry as head coach in 2012 he has guided New Zealand to 55 wins and 2 draws in 60 matches and only three losses in that time.
He has the best record of any coach in international rugby history, yet some fans seem to point to the fact that he has one of the strongest player bases in the world. However, Hansen has overseen New Zealand’s transformation from the strongest side in the world to arguably the greatest All Blacks team ever. His sides continue to set the bar for the rest of the world to catch up to and recent Rugby Championship performances have shown that the squad will certainly not be resting on its laurels.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena
Read More About: All Blacks, ben ryan, champions cup, Chris Boyd, connacht, eddie jones, eddie jones news, england rugby, england rugby news, exeter chiefs, Fiji, France, Georgia, glasgow, glasgow warriors, Grand Slam, gregor townsend, hurricanes, laurent labit, laurent travers, mark mccall, milton haig, new zealand, olympics, pat lam, premiership, Pro 12, pro12, racing 92, rob baxter, samoa, saracens, sevens, Six Nations, steve hansen, super rugby, tonga, Top 14, Top Story, World Cup