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Cambridge Rugby Club strengthen coaching staff with former England centre and St George's School director of rugby

Cambridge director of rugby Richie Williams.
Cambridge director of rugby Richie Williams.

Richie Williams has hailed “two exciting coaching appointments” set to strengthen Cambridge Rugby Club’s off-field team.

Former England player Anthony Allen and Neil Harris have been brought in as defence and set-piece coaches respectively as the club look to build on their fourth-place finish in National League One last season.

“One of the areas that we identified in the off-season that we wanted to probably develop to try to give ourselves the best possible chance of finishing higher than the fourth place we had last season was having a bit more depth with our coaching,” said Cambridge director of rugby Williams.

“We identified that our set piece was an area of strength last season and with us losing Dan Richmond (former forwards’ coach) at the end of last season, that was an area that we knew we needed to strengthen.

“The second area was we wanted someone to come in to look at our defence. Last season, up until the last game, we had the best defensive record in National League One but unfortunately the game against Rams where we conceded 40 points we were pushed down to the second best defensive record in the league, following Caldy who obviously won the league.

“For us, and how we want to play, they are two fundamental areas.”

Allen was a centre with Gloucester and Leicester Tigers, making more than 210 Premiership appearances during his career, and he earned two caps for England before having to retire early because of a knee injury.

He spent a year as defence coach at Championship club Coventry, and has most recently been coaching at Loughborough University, with their BUCS and National League teams.

“I know that he is an excellent coach that is relying on a lot of his playing experience,” said Williams.

“He has played at the top end of the game and he has worked with the likes of Ben Adams before, when Ben was at Coventry.

“Ben raves about him as a defence coach. I think his style and philosophy lends itself to what we want to try to do as a team.”

Harris will be focusing on the set piece, predominantly the scrum.

He is the director of rugby at St George’s School in Harpenden, a role in which he previously worked with Owen Farrell, George Ford, Maro Itoje and Jack Singleton.

Harris worked with Saracens women as the forwards’ coach for three seasons, during which they won back-to-back Premiership titles, and the USA Eagles women’s team, as forwards and set-piece coach.

“Neil comes with a really good track record and what impressed me when I met him a few months ago was his passion for the scrum more than anything,” said Williams.

“Looking at that area of our game, and the personnel we’ve got, we felt there was a good opportunity to become even stronger than what we were last season.”

Williams believes that the duo will not just help on the playing side of things, but with the development of some of the players’ coaching ambitions.

“The likes of Ben Adams and Gareth Baxter ended up doing a little bit of coaching,” he said.

“Ben did a bit around the defence, Gareth ran the line-out pretty much all season and Lawrence Rayner was heavily involved with some of the attacking stuff, so I think bringing the likes of Neil and Anthony they will support and mentor those senior players in their coaching roles.

“I think what we’ve created now is a really strong coaching team that are going to support those senior leaders that we have been developing over the last two years.”

Williams added: “It’s two exciting appointments for us this season.”

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