As a Head Coach of Transitional Players and the Wales U20 team, Gareth Williams has one of the most wide-ranging roles within the Welsh Rugby Union. He explains just what it entails to http://www.wru.co.uk
First, it's worth looking into what the newly-created Head Coach of Transitional Players role actually is. "I work closely with the regions with regards to developing players between 18 and 23," describes the former Wales Sevens head coach. "I am primarily a coach and I'm enjoying working with a wider team of coaches across the regions on player development."
Player plans are scheduled on a quarterly basis, ensuring that the regions and the WRU are coordinated, all with one straightforward aim: creating extra depth for Wales' national squads and the regions.
This involves making use of the different tools Williams and co. have at their disposal in order to benefit the player - and there are many. "Depending on the individual, it could be the National Age Grade programmes, sevens, academies, our physio and S&C services. And that's before you get into the regional structures, Premiership competition and the College and Schools league. These are all elements that we can make use of in our planning, and each of these are valuable in moving a player forward."
As alluded to earlier, there is ultimately an end goal in all this: namely the 2023 and 2027 World Cups. Williams says he's lucky that the quality of coaches across the regions and various programmes is high as they work towards those ends.
Heading up the Wales U20 programme is a natural extension to his wider role since he has a pre-existing relationship with the players coming through the pathways. It's an additional challenge for him to develop his coaching as well, working alongside a talented young team that includes Andrew Bishop, Richard Kelly and Dai Flanagan, in an age grade that has a rich history.
Ever the keen student, Williams has taken lessons from all levels of the game. In the Lions year of 2017, he was part of interim head coach Robin McBryde's Wales coaching team on their successful summer tour against Tonga and Samoa. That experience has continued this year.
"I've been very fortunate that Warren Gatland invited me to be part of the national squad campaign this autumn," he says. "It has been excellent for me having hands-on coaching duties on the pitch and in video reviews, and this has been a great learning curve on a number of fronts."
Crucially, working with the senior players have given him some invaluable insights that will help him in developing the next generation of Wales internationals.
"With the extended time and interactions with the players, I have learned a great deal from established internationals about what they found effective in their own development. What they perceive as challenges for young professional players coming through these days, and getting an understanding of the desire of senior players wanting to play a part in the development of the next generation of players."
Naturally, being immersed in a coaching team comprising Gatland, McBryde, Rob Howley, Shaun Edwards and Neil Jenkins has been of great value to him. "From a technical and tactical point of view it's been fantastic, but it also helps me appreciate the personal dynamics within a well-established high-performing coaching team. It's been a privilege to work with and learn from them."
Sevens was the main driver in Williams's early coaching career, and it's a game he firmly believes can play a key role in a player's development. Whilst player planning is now part of his new remit, the man now in charge of Wales Sevens is his former assistant, Richie Pugh.
"The day-to-day running of the programme is firmly in Richie's control, and he will do a good job, with his support team, in developing the players exposed to the World Series," Williams says, with Wales shortly heading to Dubai for the World Series opener.
He will support Pugh in the recruitment of regional players looking to develop within the sevens programme. "We are also working more closely as a seven's and 20s squad on the development of individual players that will be of benefit to all concerned, but most importantly, the player himself."
Not that Williams will be far from Pugh should they need to discuss any matters. "I'm still on the desk next to Pughie, so I'm enjoying dropping back into tactical and technical conversations when the chance arises!"