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Forward Coaching

(Gavin Hickie coaches Dartmouth Men)

‘X Factor’ is a term that has crossed from entertainment into sport to describe an exceptional player. At least that was the original intention, but increasingly it is applied to any player who makes a key play in a game or who has a particular skill that makes them stand out. While these strengths cannot be ignored, to make it at the very highest level in any sport, a player needs high core skill levels in all aspects of their game, the qualities as an individual to perform under pressure, and the drive to improve.

In my role as head coach of the AIG Men’s Collegiate All-Americans, I, along with my coaching team and the Eagle Eye scout network, are tasked with finding players with international test-level potential. These are players who do not simply have X-factor, but who have the skills for the positional roles and the qualities as individuals to reach that next level. In consultation with collegiate coaches, we will identify and nurture that talent, working regularly with the players, setting goals for their development along the player pathway to the Eagles squad. The hope is we develop successful international players who peak for the Rugby World Cup 2019 as outlined in the key strategies of the “American Rugby Model”, laid out by USA Rugby Director of Performance, Alex Magleby.

Justin Hickey of Clemson is the Forwards Coach of the AIG Men’s Collegiate All-Americans, he and I will focus on finding the players to challenge for places in the “pack”.

“It’s a very exciting time for rugby in this country, and the collegiate game is experiencing rapid growth, increased competition, and exposure like never before.  College students are in the midst of such a transformational period in their lives, transitioning from adolescence to adulthood, choosing and following career paths, and establishing their personal independence. Add to this, the physical and intellectual development as athletes and rugby players, it really is a pivotal time in their rugby playing careers,” said Hickey.

“It is an honor and a true pleasure to be entrusted with the responsibility of identifying and developing the athletes who will represent our men’s national teams potentially now, and in the near future. The qualities we are looking for in all of our athletes, and the forwards in particular begin with core values centered on the dedication and commitment to represent the United States, coupled with a work ethic and the perseverance necessary to compete in international competition.

‘We will look for our forwards to embody the American brand of rugby through physicality, aggression, dominance of the contact area, and a tremendous work rate. Through the Eagle Eye Scouting Network, National Tracking Camps, coach recommendations and match scouting, we are doing our best to cast as wide of a net as possible to identify the young men who fit the profile of current and future Eagles. We want to leave no stone unturned.”

Forwards’ Responsibilities

Forwards have the responsibility at Set Piece to restart the game and give their team a solid platform to attack from with quick, clean ball for the Backs. In defence they have to disrupt and dominate their opponents. These are physically demanding and technically challenging roles, and Forwards are also expected to contribute to open play both as ball carriers in attack and making their tackles in defence.

What we are looking for:

  • Exceptional abilities in the specialist skills required for position specific skills
  • Self-motivated mindset and appetite to develop as players
  • Match performances which show progression in your role and the ability to execute under pressure
  • How coachable are you? Are you able to take information on board, process that information and put it into practice?

Skills required for all Forward Positions

  • Catch & pass: ability to execute skills consistently and accurately under pressure on both sides
  • Run: good speed control, agility and footwork. Displaying acceleration and explosive power.
  • Defence: ability to defensively dictate to ball-carrier, dominant in tight situations
  • Ground skills: low hip height, speed back to feet, ability to steal and win ball
  • The maul: good understanding and technique