Difference between a Head Coach and Director of Rugby

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Difference between a Head Coach and Director of Rugby

Post by alkmaar67 on Sat 22 Jul 2017, 10:08 am

Hi all

I am an occasional follower of rugby union (particularly Lions tours, Rugby Championship and latter stages of the Aviva Premiership) and have a question about how clubs are run. I was reading a story about Rob Baxter moving from being a head coach to a director of rugby. Given that the Exeter Chiefs have been a remarkable success story in recent seasons since promotion, I am wondering why he would choose to take that step. I have also read about Steve Diamond at Sale moving between the two posts at various times.

Do all clubs have both and who ultimately is more responsible for results or rather whose head is on the chopping block when things go wrong? Does the Director of Rugby have sole responsibility for recruitment and selection and why would someone make a good head coach but not be an effective director of rugby?
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Re: Difference between a Head Coach and Director of Rugby

Post by exile jack on Sat 22 Jul 2017, 5:48 pm

A very good question.I'd suggest the primary distinction is that the Head Coach is responsible with his coaching team for coaching the First XV and the DoR is responsible for coaching,player development and performance across all age groups within a club/team/region.The crux appears to be where and when a DoR determines or persuades the Management Board or Owner that the Head Coach isn't delivering the expected or required performance from the First XV.

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Re: Difference between a Head Coach and Director of Rugby

Post by Rugby Fan on Sat 22 Jul 2017, 6:46 pm

In US sport, a General Manager hires and fires coaches and players. One of his appointees is the Head Coach, who is responsible for team selection and onfield decisions.

The Director of Rugby and Head Coach roles could be split in the same way but often aren't. However, it's a big job trying to maintain a squad, while juggling everyone's contract renewal status, keeping an eye open on who is available, and working out how the budget cap is affected by England qualification, or academy credits.

That should all be the responsibility of a DoR, but a good Head Coach often wants to choose who will be in his squad, and an engaged DoR often wants to select the team. Rugby doesn't have any clear demarcation lines yet.

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Re: Difference between a Head Coach and Director of Rugby

Post by Poorfour on Sat 22 Jul 2017, 8:40 pm

John Kingston was the Head Coach at Quins for a long time, and last year stepped up to be DoR. I was at an end of season Q&A with him. He didn't lay it out chapter and verse, but he did make it clear what some of the differences are:

1) the DoR sets the systems the team will use, in consultation with the coaches; the Head Coach and his team implement it. I also got the sense that the DoR sets the overall gameplan for each game, but the Head Coach will define the tactics within that.

2) the DoR hires and fires the squad and coaches. Kingston said that he thought that as Head Coach he had a pretty good understanding of the squad and (by implication) their contracts, but learned a lot more when he became DoR and it changed his mind about the composition of the squad - he hinted that there were players he might have replaced but as DoR was glad he kept.

3) the DoR's role in hands on coaching is very limited. Kingston said that he helped out when asked, but primarily left the job to his coaches. Conor O'Shea, the previous DoR, was the only person on the coaching staff who worked directly with Nick Evans, but Evans was a bit of a special case.

4) the DoR is responsible for the whole playing department, including recruitment into and graduation from the Academy. Interestingly, Kingston said that he focused heavily on the character of potential hires, leaving physical and technical assessment to the coaches. The Head Coach will primarily work with the senior squad.

He didn't discuss week to week team selection, but I would expect that the Head Coach and DoR would discuss it and try to reach consensus, but that ultimately the DoR would have the final say. The Head Coach will be focused on who is performing well right now, whereas the DoR will have an angle on player development and long term player welfare.

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Re: Difference between a Head Coach and Director of Rugby

Post by beshocked on Mon 24 Jul 2017, 9:56 am

At Saracens currently they are both one and the same -Mccall is both. He's been in this dual role since Farrell Sr left for England and hasn't exactly harmed things.

The structure is slightly different in each club.

As for recruitment I am sure Mccall doesn't make the decisions on his own will probably be the middle man between his assistant coaches and the CEO/Chairman/Board of Directors.

Of course the CEO and shareholders like Nigel Wray have an important role.


Exeter Chiefs have Tony Rowe as Chairman and CEO whilst at Saracens both roles are separate.

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Re: Difference between a Head Coach and Director of Rugby

Post by marty2086 on Mon 24 Jul 2017, 11:25 am

Poorfour wrote:
He didn't discuss week to week team selection, but I would expect that the Head Coach and DoR would discuss it and try to reach consensus, but that ultimately the DoR would have the final say. The Head Coach will be focused on who is performing well right now, whereas the DoR will have an angle on player development and long term player welfare.

Ulster held a Q&A with season ticket holders last week with the coaching team, one of the first questions was who would be picking the team and Les Kiss essentially said the setup around selecting the team would work like this.

It wasn't always the case, in the past David Humphreys was more or a recruiter but under the current setup that's handled by the Operations Director Bryn Cunningham whose job description reads

He is responsible for recruiting and retaining players, identifying talent and managing contract negotiations. He also oversees the professional services around the senior squad and the management of team operations on match-nights.


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