Rugby Canada Men's XVs Plan - 2017

August 04 2017

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Rugby Canada Releases Details of Men's XVs Plan: Commentary and Analysis

[editor's comments below]

The details of Rugby Canada's plan to correct the steady decline of the men's XVs program is appended below. The following is the overview along with our commentary.


The main tenet of this plan is that hiring more people will solve the problem. Besides a new head coach there will be new positions for Academy Coach (centralized program), High Performance Director XVs, Technical coaches (Forwards, Backs, Defence), Sport Psychologist (consultant). It's presumed that World Rugby will be picking up the tab for most of this. This covers Recommendations #2,3,4,6,7,8

Recommendation #1 is a declaration that men's XVs is of primary importance. Recommendation #5 is that they will go after the 7s program for players as needed.


This is the standard response by Rugby Canada and why they've grown from a small office in Ottawa with a staff of 7 in 1999 to a staff of 49 (and climbing) in two locations in 2017. That's a 600% increase in hirings over 18 years. Needless to say this hasn't correlated to on the field rugby performance. Canada were ranked 13th in 2003 when the iRB started keeping track. Now Canada are ranked 23rd in men's XVs.

The basic lesson is that one ineffective person in a key position can act as a bottleneck to performance, poor decisions equals poor results, it's not about number of people, it's about quality of people. Keith Wilkinson was Director of Rugby in 1999, he may have been the last Canadian to hold that spot. Back in 2003 we had a centralized development program called the Pacific Pride, we had a national league called the RCSL. We were doing OK. Martin Gallagher came over as an iRB appointment for Director of Rugby, the Pacific Pride program was cancelled. After him came Geraint John, Mike Chu, Jim Dixon. The rugby didn't improve, it got worse. Now in 2017 we're getting around to rediscovering a centralized development program, RCCP, it still doesn't have any direction but they're going to hire a head coach. Not only that but they're hiring someone to be his boss who will work under the current Director of Rugby (or GM of Rugby Operations) Jim Dixon. It's a sweet deal if you're the Director of Rugby, more people reporting to you and none of the past results stick since the coach was sacked. You have to wonder about the Rugby Canada Board of Directors sometimes.

It's amazing that John Tait, women's 7s coach, gets along fine with $2 million in Government funding but the Board felt compelled to make the statement, "the success of the [men's XVs] program provides funding for all of Rugby Canada’s National Teams, High Performance and Development programs". World Rugby seems to be pouring the koolaid and the Board have their glasses full. It's even more amazing that Francois Ratier has got the women's program to Ireland ranked #3 with virtually none of these benefits, actually only the efforts of the Canadian Rugby Foundation and the Monty Heald fund got them off the pay to play model. Also Damian McGrath has got Canada back to respectability in men's 7s although losing $750K of OTP funding thanks to Rugby Canada's past hiring mistakes.

Which brings us to point #5, that Rugby Canada are prepared to pillage the 7s program if necessary to beat Uruguay. I wonder how OTP feel about this as they consider reinstating the $750K to the men's program, or how Sports Canada feel about the salaries they pay the carded players in order for them to bring Olympic glory in 7s?

It very much sounds like World Rugby steering the ship and saying we will give you money but we want this. The mental image of a Rugby Canada Board in Homer Simpson fashion drooling and murmuring "mmm, money" comes to mind. It's not pretty.

They likely could have just passed the baton to Francois Ratier after he finished at the Women's World Cup as they did after Crowley left. He could have taken on the men's job and let him select the Academy coach. A proven performer without having to roll the dice. Keep it simple, they get the wrong person in any of these positions and it's just going to clog up the process and put us back a few more years.

That's the way I see it anyway.

from Rugby Canada

Rugby Canada released details and recommendations following the review of the National Men’s 15s Program following the June 2017 International Series.

Rugby Canada’s National Men’s 15s team failed to qualify in the Americas 1 position for the 2019 Men’s Rugby World Cup after losing a home and away series against USA. The team will now face Uruguay in a home and away series in late January and February, 2018 to qualify in the Americas 2 position.

“I would like to thank Jim Dixon, General Manager Rugby Operations and Performance, and the High Performance Advisory Group for conducting a diligent and professional review process. Their insight, experience and perspective has provided a set of clear and decisive recommendations for Rugby Canada’s Board of Directors and Senior Management to consider,” stated Allen Vansen, CEO.

“Men’s 15s Rugby has and will continue to be an essential part of Rugby Canada’s community, one that contributes significantly to the overall programming and related success of our sport and National Teams – we cannot ignore its importance. We must ensure that appropriate resources are strategically allocated to the program at the appropriate time. We identified a number of challenges following the RWC2015 review – these require both Rugby Canada and its passionate community taking steps to deliver long-term success. The solution does not rest with one individual or one initiative; it requires significant and ongoing improvements on many fronts,” noted Jim Dixon, General Manager Rugby Operations and Performance.

“Whilst I am deeply disappointed to see a critical Rugby Canada high performance program underperforming, I am confident the recommendations and associated solutions will bring swift, positive change in the short-term, and compliment the long-term strategies in place,” Dixon stated.

“Our National Men’s 15s program is a critical National program and qualifying for the 2019 Men’s Rugby World Cup is the organizations number one priority. Rugby Canada will begin implementing these recommendations immediately, building upon the sound set of recommendations and actions taken after the 2015 Men’s Rugby World Cup,” stated Tim Powers, Chairman of the Board.

The following provides an overview of the process and the recommendations following the National Men’s 15s Leadership and Program Review.


Rugby Canada’s Board of Directors and CEO tasked a review committee of internal and external experts, familiar with the high performance Rugby landscape in Canada and World Rugby best practice, to make recommendations regarding leadership of the National Men’s 15s program and any critical programming changes that will positively impact the performance of the team.

The following members of the Rugby Canada Men’s High Performance Advisory Group were tasked to undertake the review over the course of the past four weeks;

Tyler Hotson (Rugby Canada board member – Men’s Player Representative)
Mike McGovern (High Performance Advisor, World Rugby)
Dr. Pat Parfrey (RC’s World Rugby Council representative, and former national team coach)
Mike Schmid (Former Canadian international and long-time professional coach in the UK)
Gordon Sneddon (Chairman of the Canadian Rugby Championship and former RC board member)
Jim Dixon (RC General Manager, Rugby Operations and Performance)

To guide the review committee in its mandate, the following critical factors were provided to the review committee to take into consideration:

Program leadership: what’s critical to achieving short and long-term success;
Timelines: when can strategies be introduced so as to ensure there is no detrimental effect on the program’s success, most notably in the short-term;
Budgets: Rugby Canada’s limited resources and recommendations must be cognizant of that;
Landscape: what is the reality we are faced with in regards to domestic scope for growth and improvement in the immediate future.
As part of the review process a comprehensive set of methods were utilized to gather critical, relevant information relating to the program’s performance, and the evaluation of the program leadership and players:

Individual confidential 360-degree player and staff feedback surveys;
Surveys covered personal performance, performance scoring of staff/colleagues, areas for improving the program’s performance, factors that led to an unsuccessful outcome in the RWCQ games v USA;
Program leadership and staff reports from technical, strength & conditioning and medical staff utilizing a SWOT analysis of department responsibilities in relation to the program, and self-assessed personal performance review;
Including a comprehensive report from Head Coach, Mark Anscombe;
Senior players committee leadership teleconference with Tyler Hotson, RC Men’s Player Representative to the Board of Directors;
Independent senior Men’s 15s player calls with Mike McGovern, High Performance Advisor, World Rugby;
HP Advisory Group meetings to review all reports, meet with Head Coach, Mark Anscombe and provide recommendations to senior management.
Advisory Group Recommendations

Following a very comprehensive review process, the following eight (8) recommendations have been brought forward by the advisory group.

Below each recommendation, in italics, are the actions that have been or are being implemented by Rugby Canada’s Board of Directors & senior management.

Recommendation No. 1

The RC Board of Directors are strongly encouraged to make a public and internal statement outlining that the National Men’s 15s program is a priority and mandate to senior management that resources (players and financial) should be prioritized to ensure a successful qualification campaign and Men’s 2019 Rugby World Cup.

ACTION: Rugby Canada’s Board of Directors confirmed that the National Men’s 15s program is a critical priority program for the organization, whereas the success of the program provides funding for all of Rugby Canada’s National Teams, High Performance and Development programs.

The Board has provided unanimous direction to senior management to implement the recommendations of the High Performance Advisory Group and to prioritize resource allocations to the Men’s 15s program to ensure a successful Americas 2 qualification and Men’s 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Recommendation No. 2

Enhanced, internally focussed leadership capacity is needed for the Rugby department. A full-time High Performance Director - 15s, overseeing the National Men’s 15s team, Rugby Canada Centralized Program, 15s age-grade and pathway, as well as oversee Women’s 15s HP programs.

ACTION: Position description and advertisement have been approved for recruitment of this position ASAP.

Recommendation No. 3

The Rugby Canada Centralised Program (RCCP) must be enhanced with greater coaching/staff and resource capacity, and a greater number of players for the program allowing them to train and play appropriately.

ACTION: Planning meetings have commenced to identify the players for this group, focusing on those that will most likely feature in the October ‘A’ tour, November and January/February Test windows. A group of 26-28 centralised players, plus targeted additions in specific windows of time, most notably March – June will be invited to join the RCCP for September, 2017.

Recommendation No. 4

A full-time Men’s 15s coach, based at Rugby Canada’s Centre of Excellence in Langford, in addition to the Men’s 15s Head Coach, is hired to ensure there is greater attention placed on the Rugby Canada Centralized Program players in the daily training environment.

ACTION: This positon will be the National Academy Head Coach and will coach Canada ‘A’, the Rugby Canada Centralised Program and be a National Senior Men’s 15s team assistant coach.

In addition, Mike Shelley will continue as the RCCP Coordinator and coaching assistant in the increased capacity implemented in April 2017.

Recommendation No. 5

Ensure the best players are available to support the Americas 2 qualification matches versus Uruguay – be they 7s or 15s ‘carded’ at present.

ACTION: Men’s 15s and 7s program coaching staff will meet to review all players for potential selection for the Men’s 15s roster. One-to-one meetings to be conducted with targeted identified 7s players to ensure appropriate player welfare management.

Discussions will be initiated with foreign-based player’s clubs for negotiation of players release for the two qualification matches versus Uruguay.

Recommendation No. 6

The program needs to seek the professional assistance of a qualified and experienced sport psychologist to work with the program in the lead up to the RWC qualifiers.

ACTION: Request to be made to World Rugby for the services of a qualified sport psychologist on a consultant basis to work with the program, most notably in November 2017 and January/February 2018. Consideration for a resident Sport Psychologist will also be contemplated.

Recommendation No. 7

The National Men’s 15s program requires additional technical staff for critical windows – senior Forwards coach responsible for overall leadership of Forwards play (supported by Mike Shelley – Scrums), additional Backs coach proficient in international test Rugby. One of these people, and/or the Head Coach, need to be highly experienced as a Defence coach. This is an area of ongoing concern that needs consistent support and attention.

ACTION: Roles will be sourced to cover the period through the November 2017 tour, the January/February Uruguay matches and the Americas Rugby Championship. At that time an assessment will be made based on the skill-set and preference of the new Head Coach. The priority is to secure personnel who can support the team until RWC2019.

Recommendation No. 8

A change in the National Men’s 15s Head Coach position to be taken with immediate effect. An interim Head Coach is to be identified and put in place until the time a suitable full-time Head Coach can be hired.

ACTION: The National Men’s 15s Head Coach has been released from his position.

Recruitment of this position will be initiated ASAP, in conjunction with World Rugby.

Pemberton Holmes
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