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Creating a pathway through Cambridge Rugby Club is the aim for Richie Williams

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Cambridge director of rugby Richie Williams. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge director of rugby Richie Williams. Picture: Keith Heppell

An all-encompassing role will see Richie Williams bid to create a pathway through Cambridge Rugby Club to the first team.

Head coach for the past two seasons, his remit has been expanded to become the director of rugby looking at all facets of the club.

Galvanising support from the top to the bottom is difficult and, once achieved, maintaining it can sometimes be even harder, but there can be no doubt of the riches on offer if the two can be combined.

Williams will continue his responsibilities as head coach, overseeing all first-team proceedings, but the additional aspect is something that he is relishing.

“I think the exciting part of the new director of rugby role is to have a real overview of the whole club, looking at the pathway from minis and juniors all the way through to the colts and the academy, and looking at the transition from the academy to into the senior section,” he says.

“Historically, if you get that alignment right between all of the age groups and the player development focus, I think long-term it will have a really positive effect on your senior section.”

The past few months, while in lockdown during the off-season, has allowed Williams to invest a lot of time looking at the role and having conversations across the club.

That has been with coaches of the mini and junior squads, to a lot of the players on the teams.

It has included a series of Monday night webinars, including with former players Will Hooley and Fraser Dingwall, and asking what the junior element of the club requires from the senior sides.

“I think it’s really exciting to have those responsibilities to look at the wider club next season, in addition to the first-team responsibilities,” he said.

“It’s really important now with the current climate of what’s going on. I think the clubs that will be successful in the future will be the clubs that have got that production line of good young players coming through.

“I think it’s really important to have an alignment between each age group, and get the coaches on board with what we’re trying to do as a senior section.

“We’re there to support the young players and the coaches at the club.”

Williams admits that it would be good to get more of the club’s youngsters along on a Saturday afternoon to watch National League One games, but they have to be able to offer something in return.

“It’s having a bit more visibility there on a Sunday morning with the mini and juniors training. It’s offering our services to help with coach development in the week,” he said.

“Having some structure in place will help improve the environment that we want to get back to.”

He pointed to the example of first-team players Ben Penfold and Rob Conquest.

They head up the community section of the club, are heavily involved with the colts and coaching the Vipers academy.

The pair also do work with the mini and junior teams.

“I think the more continuity that we can have between those people and the age groups then the easier that transition will be long term,” says Williams.

There is a realism at the club about what they can achieve, and that also comes with how to get more players through the levels to appear for the first team.

It is about finding the right balance though.

“I’m fully aware that it’s great to get as many of your mini and juniors to come and play first-team rugby but ultimately we’re fully aware that you’ve got to also bring in outside players as well to add value to what you’re trying to do,” says Williams.

“Most important is to get the balance between promoting the youths from your club but also bringing in players that can further enhance the environment you’re trying to develop.”

He added: “It’s a really good project. It’s something that we will benefit from in the next three or four years, if we invest a lot of our time and resources now.”

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