On the outskirts of Paris, at Racing 92's impressive Plessis-Robinson training facility, 34 professional players recently undertook World Rugby Level 1 and Level 2 training courses, as they made the first steps towards a coaching career.

Current players of Pacific Island heritage, together with a sprinkling of Celts and South Africans, joined retired All Blacks Joe Rokocoko and Chris Masoe, who have already begun that journey with the host club as an academy coach and defence coach respectively.

It was the sixth time a course of this nature has been held in France but the first in conjunction with Pacific Rugby Players (PRP), for whom Rokocoko also acts as a Player Relationship Manager.

“It’s been an honour to be involved in this course, and I've learnt a lot from the last two days. I encourage everyone to be a part of it,” said Masoe, owner of 20 All Blacks caps.

"Informative and engaging"

Following the completion of the course, the aspiring coaches will now return to their clubs and keep a diary of sessions and matches prior to being observed working with their team. The Level 1and 2 courses can be used as a springboard to further, more advanced courses.

Scotland international Ollie Atkins, capped 39 times between 2015-19, now plays for Normandy outfit Rouen in France’s ProD2. Having turned 30, the second-row is sensibly preparing for his post-playing days and he came away from Paris enriched by the experience.

“I’ve found it incredibly informative, engaging and actually a really enjoyable weekend,” he said.

“It has given me a whole new perspective on coaching and how they deliver messages to players of different abilities and strengths.”

The Level 1 course focuses on applying the principles of rugby to the play of a team; identifying skill faults; planning a session; delivering a session; applying risk management and ethics; demonstrating understanding of the laws of the game.

Meanwhile, the Level 2 course focuses on identifying technical and generic coaching skills; self-reflecting on own performance as a coach; developing a coaching and playing philosophy; identifying coaching methods/styles and apply to own practice; using the principles of attack and defence to analyse the play of a team; using key factor analysis as a tool for player improvement; demonstrating safe coaching of individual and unit skills; understanding the concept of functional role analysis; developing some criteria for selection.

The various sessions were run by a number of experienced coach educators, including World Rugby’s Head of Technical Services Mark Harrington and World Rugby coach trainers John Schropfer, Rob Clilverd, Anthony Granja and Colin O’Hare.

Springboard to success

Harrington has seen how past courses have acted as a springboard for players to become coaches, Fijian Seremaia Bai is an example, and predicts the same outcome for a significant portion of the latest intake.

“It’s their first step on the ladder, it’s trying to help them with that transition from being a pro player to considering coaching,” he said.

“I’d have high hopes that out of this group we’ve just had, there will be a pretty good return rate at different levels. Joe and Chris are already coaching at Racing. Chris is an assistant coach with the first team and Joe runs a lot of academy programmes.

“If we get 10 guys to come out the other end as career coaches, then that’s a great return.”