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Dublin: 1 °C Sunday 24 February, 2019

The right-hand men: 5 of the best rugby assistant coaches who deserve a top job

Which club will take a punt on one of these guys?

SINCE THERE ARE so many different areas that a rugby team needs to excel in to achieve success, a deep and talented coaching staff is almost as important as having a strong panel of players.

Attack, defence and the set-piece are a few parts of the game that require a specialist coach. Many of these guys are relatively unsung compared to their head coaches but play a crucial role nonetheless. Here are five such coaches who could be in line for a head coaching job in the near future.

Jono Gibbes

Rugby Union - Magners League - Edinburgh v Leinster - Murrayfield Source: PA ARCHIVE IMAGES

Few assistant coaches in the history of the game have been as successful as the New Zealander. Gibbes was the forwards coach for all three of Leinster’s Heineken Cup wins while also picking up two Pro12 titles and a Challenge Cup medal with the province.

What was telling about Gibbes’ contribution was how the level of Leinster’s forward play deteriorated in Matt O’Connor’s second season as opposed to his first, when Gibbes was still there.

The former flanker departed for Clermont in the summer of 2014 and immediately helped them to both the Top 14 and the Champions Cup final. Many Leinster fans wanted Gibbes to replace O’Connor last summer but the New Zealander opted to continue to hone his skills as a forwards coach. However, it is surely only a matter of time before Gibbes decides to take up a head coaching offer.

Dave Ellis

Dave Ellis Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The basic level of skill from all Connacht players this season has been exceptional and Dave Ellis has played a massive part in that.

The Connacht skills coach has upped the handling from 1-15 and it has made the westerners one of the most dangerous sides in the Pro12.

The win over Munster in November showed just how far Connacht have come with Ellis in the role and if they continue to improve at such an impressive rate the New Zealander won’t be an assistant for long.

Paul Gustard

Rugby Union - Aviva Premiership - Saracens v Sale Sharks - Vicarage Road Source: Empics Sports Photography Ltd.

It will pain an Irish rugby fan to admit it but Saracens have been the most impressive club in Europe this season.

They have been consistently strong over the last five years and a big part of that has been the job done by their defence coach Paul Gustard.

They conceded one try in their first two Champions Cup games despite playing against Ulster and Toulouse and only allowed four tries in their first five league games.

Gustard is now a part of Eddie Jones’ England coaching staff but he could potentially be the man to replace the Australian in 2019 if he continues to progress.

Wayne Smith

Rugby Union - Investec Challenge Series 2008 - England v New Zealand - Twickenham Source: PA ARCHIVE IMAGES

The New Zealander has been a head coach before after a brief and unsuccessful spell as the All Blacks boss he redeemed himself as an assistant with the same team under Graham Henry and Steve Hansen.

He is currently on a sabbatical after being a part of a second World Cup win but if he wants to, he could almost have any job in world rugby.

Nathan Grey

Rugby Union - Dove Men Series 2014 - Wales v Australia - Millennium Stadium Source: Andrew Matthews

Australia’s defence was extremely stingy at the 2015 World Cup with Grey’s unit only allowing eight tries in seven games (as well as three shutouts) despite playing teams like Wales, England and New Zealand.

The former centre was only drafted into the job back in February so it is a pretty hefty achievement to shore up the Australian rearguard in such a short space of time.

Before that Grey had also enjoyed success alongside Michael Cheika with the Waratahs, helping the franchise to their first ever Super Rugby title back in 2014.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Grey take up a head coaching role with an Australian Super Rugby team in the near future.

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