Proudfoot stepping up in England
England forwards coach Matt Proudfoot says head coach Eddie Jones is going to great lengths to boost the personal development of his coaching staff during the rugby season’s Covid-19 enforced break.
The lockdown in England has brought all rugby activities to a standstill and Jones has given his coaching staff a variety of projects which are aimed at improving their general skills, their development and playing meaningful roles in helping players achieve their goals.
“The coaching staff have a whole lot of different projects, some of which target our personal growth,” said Proudfoot. “Eddie is big on personal growth, he wants me to do better on the subject of reviews. I need to know how to review better.
“I have been working with the British Air Force and learning how they review their pilots. I have been having weekly meetings with them and they have helped me develop mechanisms to review our players. We need an effective mechanism which allows us to review players’ weekly training sessions.”
Jones and his coaching staff conduct weekly meetings online and then coaches also have one on ones with each other. Besides, coaches also reach out to some of the world’s finest rugby brains.
“I have been working on different projects and I’ve reached out to other coaches,” said Proudfoot who six months ago helped his native South Africa lift the William Webb Ellis trophy after defeating England 32-12 in the 2019 RWC final in Japan.
“I had a skype meeting with Wayne Smith (former All Blacks coach) to look at how to improve our ball carries.
“I’m busy on another project which focuses on Six Nations teams. I’m looking at aspects of their play that we can look to exploit. We are always looking for ways to improve our (coaching) skills.”
Proudfoot said Jones wants to grow and improve all facets of English rugby.
“Eddie is very intense when it comes to improving,” said Proudfoot. “We have to constantly improve everything we do. After every training session, we will come off the training field and have a meeting. We will establish what was good and bad about the training session and where we can improve.
“That is the way Eddie is about everything we have been doing.”
As a forwards coach, Proudfoot has specific areas of focus and the maul and scrum are at the top of the list. At the last 2019 RWC, it was clear that the maul, both the rolling and driving variety, was enjoying a resurgence at the top levels of world rugby. The maul in full cry remains one of the alluring sights of rugby.
“Once we return to training, we’ll focus on the maul and the scrum,” said Proudfoot. “These are the two big focal areas we’re looking at.
“I have been doing a project with the locks and it deals with the maul. Then there is another project with the props.
“I have looked at the South African, Brumbies and our (England) maul. We have analysed these thoroughly and looked at strengths and weaknesses. We have tried to see how we can improve our maul and I have done the same with the scrums.
“Right now, I have two sets of forwards looking at different areas. “The loose forwards will target ball-carrying duties and the role of the ball carrier, and through the phases as well.
“Those are three big areas that will enjoy attention as we look to improve.”
The online inter-action during lockdown with players has shown Proudfoot another side of the players’ lives, something he would not normally have seen.
“The skype meetings have allowed me to get to know them differently,” said Proudfoot.
“Every day I hook up with players (in the national squad) for a 10 or 20-minute conversation at their homes. This way I get to see their home environment, something that normally does not happen.
“What I hear and see allows me to know the players better and it helps in researching the Premiership.
“In the English set-up at this time of the year, the players would be at their clubs and when you visit them, they are in the club environment. You don’t always have a chance to meet them.”
The coronavirus pandemic has wiped out many sports events this year, but rugby fans have not lost sight of the 2021 British & Irish Lions Tour of South Africa. It has been hailed as the biggest sporting event in South Africa since the FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup.
England are expected to supply the bulk of the touring side, but Proudfoot says the team’s playing patterns will be decidedly Welsh. Former Wales coach Warren Gatland will manage the team in South Africa.
“I think the way England plays might not be the way the British Lions will play,” said Proudfoot.
“I think Gatland has a specific style if you look at Wales. In South Africa, it will probably be a lot like the way the Welsh play.
“If you look at the Wales versus SA 2019 World Cup semi-final you will see the style that I think the British Lions will use.
“Gatland will take a lot of his Welsh infrastructure into the British Lions set-up.”
Proudfoot arrived back in South Africa the same day President Ramaphosa declared the national lockdown.
It might be some time before Proudfoot returns to England although there are positive signs that some UK sport will be resuming in June.
But in Proudfoot’s case, he also needs international flights from his native South Africa to resume, before he sets foot in England again.