Rugby Canada Fire Coach Damian McGrath: Results Driven or Union Breaking
Rugby Canada released a statement today announcing the release of Damian McGrath as men's 7s head coach. They intimated that results were the reason but from this desk's perspective it's looking more like an internal power struggle where the XVs coach put his mate into the 7s driver's seat to align the XVs and 7s programs, something that Damian and the 7s players did not support. You have to understand the recent history of Rugby Canada's politics and in fighting.
Rugby Canada rely heavily on XVs money from World Rugby, qualifying for the World Cup was paramount in their mind and they levied a tax on the membership to pay for extra XVs preparation. The 7s program was blamed by several old-school stalwarts of the Rugby Canada organization for diverting talent and money away from XVs.
The 7s players initiated a strike and started the process to become unionized. Something Rugby Canada has fought, and according to one letter that came into our possession, Rugby Canada have spent approximately $60,000 on legal fees to prevent the unionization. The process is continuing and it seems the players are winning. Damian remained neutral during the strike but was always empathetic to the players situation, he wasn't the consummate company man who would lie and obfuscate for the organization. He's a person of integrity who speaks his mind and apparently there's no place for a person like that in the current Rugby Canada organization, that's likely the real reason for his firing, not results as they were well within parameters that would see Canada easily qualify for the Olympics and stay in the series for next season.
This decision appears to be more aimed at hindering the 7s unionization and possible punitive action towards the 7s players for starting that process. The new coach Henry Paul is a long time associate of XVs coach Kingsley Jones, it's almost history repeating itself. Henry Paul was assistant to Kingsley Jones when they coached Russia at the 2011 World Cup, he then went on to become the Russian 7s head coach. Where are the Russian XVs and 7s programs now, the XVs haven't qualified for a World Cup since 2011 and the Russian team isn't on the 7s series.
What will be interesting over the next week or two is how the players will react. This decision can go a number of ways, some of them aren't good with the Olympic qualifier coming up and Canada an almost certainty to qualify without the USA present. Sometimes the Rugby Canada management team just seem they want to wear the Darth Vader helmets and pretend to be the evil empire. from Rugby Canada
RUGBY CANADA ANNOUNCES RE-STRUCTURING OF THE MEN’S HIGH PERFORMANCE PROGRAM
May 2, 2019 –LANGFORD, B.C.– As part of continued efforts to improve performance, Rugby Canada is making changes to the National Senior Men’s 7s Program leadership, announcing today that Damian McGrath has been released from his contract as Head Coach National Senior Men’s 7s Team with immediate effect. Henry Paul, current Assistant Coach with the Men’s 15s National Senior Team will assume the role of Interim Head Coach National Senior Men’s 7s Team effective immediately.
“The pinnacle event in 2019 for the Men’s 7s program is the 2020 Olympic Games regional qualification this July in Grand Cayman, and the result at this tournament is paramount to ensure qualification for the Olympic Games. A change in leadership now provides the team an opportunity to refine their play through the final two stops on the WRSS and ensure thorough preparation for the RAN qualifying tournament,” said Allen Vansen, CEO, Rugby Canada. “We would like to thank Damian for his time with Rugby Canada and the contributions he made to our 7s development, and wish him well in his future endeavours.”
Rugby Canada also announced today the formation of its Performance Leadership Group, which will lead the High Performance operations of all Rugby Canada’s National Teams, and make technical decisions as they pertain to team performance. The Performance Leadership Group has been created to ensure collaboration across all Rugby Canada high performance initiatives, and will be comprised of Kingsley Jones - Head Coach National Men’s 15s Team, John Tait - Head Coach National Women’s 7s Team, Matt Barr – Director of Athletic Performance, and Dustin Hopkins – Managing Director Rugby Operations. The Group will report through Dustin Hopkins to Rugby Canada CEO Allen Vansen.
Interim coach Henry Paul was a leading member of the England Sevens side from 2002 through 2006, and was part of the only England Sevens team to win the Hong Kong Sevens where he was named Player of the Tournament. Paul has been a professional coach since 2010, including time coaching the Russian 7s team. He will coach Canada to conclude the 2018/19 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and through the Olympic Games qualification tournament in Cayman Island, July 6 & 7, 2019. Rugby Canada will commence a national and international search for a permanent Head Coach for the National Senior Men’s 7s Team over the coming months.
“Changes in program leadership are always difficult decisions to reach, however this is part of developing and operating a competitive High Performance program, concluded Vansen. “Rugby Canada feels that this new structure will lead to improved alignment and performance for all its high performance programs, and that must be the priority at this critical time.”