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Gordon Lord has paid tribute to Anthony Allen, Richard Blaze and James Ponton who worked with England U20s during the 2017/18 season as part of the latest coach development programme.
Following a successful trial in 2016/17 in which Louis Deacon, Tom Williams and Ian Vass led the U20s to Six Nations glory as well as into the final of the World Rugby U20 Championship, the RFU extended its agreement with PRL to include three new coaches for last season.
The programme will continue into the 2018/19 campaign with another trio of new U20 coaches set to be announced in September and head of professional coach development Lord believes the programme has been and will continue to be beneficial.
“Confidence and self belief is so important for coaches and this group has developed significantly during their period of involvement,” said Lord.
During the 12 months the coaches had access to mentors and were exposed to a range of non-rugby elite performance environments that involved visits to and interactions with coaches, support staff and athletes from different sports.
The trio also received an individually designed coach development programme and under the guidance of pathway performance coach Steve Bates led England to the final of the World Rugby U20 Championship, while they were also runners-up in the Six Nations, finishing on the same number of points as France.
Allen, the former Gloucester and Leicester Tigers centre, won two caps for England and currently coaches in the Tigers’ academy echoed Lord’s sentiments, adding: “I have gained confidence in what and how I am delivering and enjoyed the process of being involved with an international team working with different players as well as coaches.
“I feel I have added value to the players and coaches I worked with.”
This week Blaze was appointed forwards coach for England Women in a further endorsement for the programme.
Previously he worked as forwards coach at Leicester Tigers having played for the club from 2007-10.
“The programme allowed me the opportunity to develop my coaching in a different environment while also giving me access to other sports and how they coach certain aspects of their game,” added Blaze.
Ponton joined Newcastle Falcons as academy coach in January 2012 and said of his 12 months with England Rugby: “I have really enjoyed the program.
“To get out of the Falcons bubble and meet with a wide variety of players from different clubs was a highlight. Coupled with working with other coaches and staff from different clubs and from within the RFU. It was great to share information and talk through philosophies, not just rugby, and see how others do it.
“There were also some experienced coaches to talk to and interact with to help develop my own thoughts and ideas.”
Lord says the trio will continue to be supported beyond their initial 12 month involvement with England U20s as the RFU looks to continue developing coaches.
“Their individual coach development programmes are designed to support their development for their present and their futures,” added Lord.
“Often coaches are uncertain of their direction and exposure to different environments and people can be helpful in developing both momentum and direction in coaching careers. Much of coach development is experiential. When it is built around the needs and aspirations of individuals, it can have real impact.
“It takes a long time to become a top coach. We are looking long term with these guys and will continue to support them in accessing opportunities to extend their development.”