From the Editor's Desk - January 2023

January 19 2023

Rob Howley

Wales Head Coach Warren Gatland Wants Robert Howley Back - A Reflection on the Canadian Coaching Pathway

Warren Gatland wants his coaching mate, Robert Howley, back in the Wales fold. His comments were captured in the Guardian article linked below. He basically wants Howley forgiven but apparently the WRU blocked the move.
from The Guardian

Warren Gatland has queried the Welsh Rugby Union’s decision not to re-employ Rob Howley and says his former assistant coach deserves to be forgiven for the past misjudgements which cost him his job in 2019.

Howley was forced to step down just prior to the last Rugby World Cup after it emerged he had placed 363 bets on the outcome of rugby matches in breach of the sport’s regulations.

Having returned to the post of head coach following the sacking of Wayne Pivac, Gatland had been keen to reappoint Howley to his coaching staff but the proposal is understood to have been blocked by the WRU.

Of course, as readers know, Howley was sent to Canada after embarrassing Wales in the gambling fiasco. Many wondered how that was funded, anonymous donors was one rumour. Well Gatland clarified that point in the Guardian article, World Rugby paid for it according to Gatland, "I would have loved to have had Rob. Hopefully he will continue to be involved in rugby. He’s been involved with Canada and he’s had the backing of World Rugby who have been funding that position."... interesting. I wonder if World Rugby considered funding Jamie Cudmore for a coaching position in Wales after his gaffe, if we're going quid pro quo. That's the point though, World Rugby is really a home nations organization, SANZAAR is large enough to have some influence but picking up the tab for a disgraced coach and sending him to the colonies, that would only happen under the watchful eyes of Britannia.

Canada actually has a long colonial history of taking in those who were exiled from the motherland. The term Remittance Man was popular during the peak of colonialism, it referred to "a person who is supported abroad chiefly by remittances from home."

Howley, unfortunately, didn't have much of an impact in Canada, the men's XVs team failed to make the World Cup. With the parachuting of coaching "talent" into Canada, it brings up the question of coaching pathways in Canada, what are they. The question seems even more pertinent now with the latest hiring decision from Rugby Canada, the Scottish U18, U20, Glasgow academy coach via the Hong Kong women's 7s team.

If you're a Canadian coach, what are your options to rise in the ranks? What are the top coaching jobs in Canada? Being a star player doesn't hurt, Phil Mack, Sean White, John Tait and Jamie Cudmore made the upper echelons of coaching in Canada. John Tait was probably the most successful coach in recent history, winning a Bronze medal at the Olympics. Jamie Cudmore was on the pathway and was expected to take over from Kingsley Jones when Canada wrapped up the 2023 World Cup. Of course, Canada didn't make the World Cup and Jamie was jettisoned long before when he criticized the women's 7s team. Hopefully someone will stand up, like Gatland did for Howley, and make a plea for Cudmore's forgiveness and restoration. Phil Mack is in charge of the Academy team and still on the path for top job, one would hope. Sean White has been dropped into a precarious position as the new men's 7s coach, hopefully that works out well.

Then there are those who came from abroad but proved themselves at the provincial, regional or university levels in Canada first. Kevin Rouet, Jack Hanratty and Francois Ratier fit in that group. Francois Ratier merits inclusion as one of Canada's top coaches in recent history, as he led the Canadian women's XVs team to a Silver medal at the 2014 World Cup.

Other than the examples given, there doesn't seem a clear cut coaching pathway in Canada. Rugby Canada does run a NCCP WR Level 1 to 3 development but none of that guarantees any consideration for employment by Rugby Canada. Probably the top coaching jobs in Canada considering pay, benefits and stability are the top University programs. Curry Hitchborn comes to mind as one of Canada's top coaches, his university team UBC, are perennial champions at the national level. Doug Tate is another example, he coached the UVic team for almost 30 years and acted in a national team coaching capacity often during that period of time.

It seems a good way to close off this article to mention that UVic are holding a Doug Tate and Rick Farally's Retirement - Celebrating 27 years! event at the Bard and Banker pub on Feb 11th. The price is steep, $250, but all proceeds go to an endowment "that directly supports assistant coaching for the UVic Men’s Rugby program". Beyond an editor's pay grade but for those attending it's a chance to meet some of the influential people in the rugby community, I even hear Karl Fix will be flying in from Saskatchewan.

Pemberton Holmes
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