Former England Rugby Star Uses Technology to Transition into Coaching

Former England Rugby Star Uses Technology to Transition into Coaching

After 300 games in Premiership Rugby and 33 caps for the England nation­al team, Richard Wigglesworth is using analy­sis tech­nol­o­gy to make the leap from pro­fes­sion­al play­er to high-lev­el coach. 


From the age of 16, Richard Wigglesworth knew he want­ed to be a pro­fes­sion­al rug­by play­er and after a dis­tin­guished 18 years career as play­er, he now knows that coach­ing is his next move, with his motives being in his words to help teams and play­ers get bet­ter and get the most out of themselves”. 

Aside from an attack coach role with RFU Championship side Ealing Trailfinders, Wiggleworth’s first major break as a coach came at the 2019 Rugby World Cup where he served as kick­ing and defence coach for Canada. 

But while play­ing and coach­ing have sev­er­al over­laps in terms of knowl­edge and appli­ca­tion, there are sev­er­al areas that need to be bridged in the tran­si­tion phase. Wigglesworth explains how he worked with the Canada per­for­mance ana­lysts to upskill in the specifics of game analy­sis to accel­er­ate his growth as a coach. 

Wigglesworth played 33 times for England, which included two World Cup campaigns.

I had two young ana­lysts for Canada in the World Cup that were real­ly good, they taught me a lot on how to use analy­sis soft­ware. I would tell them what I was think­ing tac­ti­cal­ly and they would help me put videos togeth­er if I had a clear idea of what I want­ed,” said Wigglesworth. So, I would turn up to them with a Sportscode orga­niz­er already ready and they real­ly helped me with that process of how you pull an orga­niz­er togeth­er — sort­ing and edit­ing clips. I learned a lot in those eight or nine weeks, going from com­plete novice, to not hav­ing put any­thing togeth­er with video, to going to the ana­lyst with an organizer.”

The Sportscode Movie Organizer allows for coach­es and ana­lysts to select cer­tain instances from the game for review and pre­sen­ta­tion pur­pos­es. Users can also add notes and draw­ings to the clips for extra infor­ma­tion. It’s these visu­als that have helped Wigglesworth under­stand how play­ers react and adapt to video-based feedback.

The game has got so much more visu­al, but it’s also adapt­ing to what the play­ers now need,” said Wigglesworth. The play­ers need short bursts of real­ly clear infor­ma­tion and you can’t real­ly get that by sit­ting and watch­ing a whole game. I was naive in think­ing that the ana­lyst does what you want, as in I need, this, this and this’. They’re obvi­ous­ly the brains behind it, but as a coach, I real­ized quick­ly that you also need to be the one with the skills on the com­put­er to be able to put it analy­sis togeth­er, So you’re not wast­ing too much time.”

The Sportscode organizer allows for coaches and analysts to select certain instances from the game for review and presentation purposes.

Wigglesworth’s role as kick­ing and defence coach for Canada required spe­cif­ic tac­ti­cal knowl­edge of key instances in the game, which he went on to explain in-depth. 

The big thing was set piece, you’ve obvi­ous­ly got your own defense, but it’s how you analyse the oth­er teams set piece and kick­ing game that’s also impor­tant,” One click of a but­ton to have every one of the oth­er teams’ exits or kick offs is extreme­ly help­ful so you can then design a plan with a thought process of what they do in mind. For exam­ple, we found with South Africa, they kicked every kick­off recep­tion back to you. The video showed they’ve received 70 kick­offs and kicked all 70 back.Those are the sorts of things that you can pull straight away from Sportscode and to help with our set piece defense.”

One click of a but­ton to have every one of the oth­er teams’ exits or kick offs is extreme­ly help­ful so you can then design a plan with a thought process of what they do in mind”

Coaching in a World Cup envi­ron­ment brings unique chal­lenges not seen at club lev­el as coach­es only spend a small amount of time with play­ers pre-tour­na­ment and there are many unknowns with­in oppo­si­tion teams com­pared play­ing in say, the Premiership, where it’s com­mon to come by the same teams, play­ers and structures. 

In the World Cup, cer­tain­ly in terms of knowl­edge, our play­ers were play­ing against teams and play­ers that they’ve nev­er played against and lots of times, hadn’t seen,” said Wigglesworth. So I showed videos of what moves off the line outs they used, when they use them and what cues we can show the play­ers, like how oppo­si­tion play­ers stand or set up in cer­tain game sit­u­a­tions. It’s what clips you leave out rather than what you show, because there’s so much infor­ma­tion avail­able and you don’t want to be the kind of coach who tells the play­ers every­thing then says I’ve already told you that. You want to high­light infor­ma­tion that sticks.” 

The Sportscode timeline is where users can view instances that have been coded. Users can easily skip through moments to find exactly what they are looking for.

For the defen­sive side of his role with Canada, Wigglesworth uti­lized the Sportscode Timeline to ana­lyze oppo­si­tion attack phas­es. The Sportscode time­line is where users can view instances that have been cod­ed. Users can eas­i­ly skip through moments to find exact­ly what they are look­ing for.

The time­line is great, for exam­ple when I’m watch­ing the ball in play, I’m specif­i­cal­ly look­ing at a team’s attack and it’s easy for me to break it down,” said Wigglesworth. I was doing defence and kick­ing on a short turn­around, so as I watch the game, I need to be able to watch the oth­er team’s set pieces and put them all togeth­er in one click and then be able to iden­ti­fy trends in what they do. The abil­i­ty to one click to spe­cif­ic instances of what you want is a mas­sive time saver and allows me as a coach to focus my atten­tion on what mat­ters the most.”

Analy­sis takes the uncer­tain­ty out of our deci­sion mak­ing and I can actu­al­ly look at this bit of detail and say, yes, that’s exact­ly what hap­pened, he made this mis­take, or we were too tight here, or too wide here — there’s no guess­work involved.”

The abil­i­ty to make deci­sions with live feed­back is always an asset in a fast-mov­ing sport such as rug­by union, which is a sport that com­bines sev­er­al com­plex and microskills. As a coach you have to trust what you see, so at the World Cup we had our two ana­lysts sat in front of us, pro­duc­ing live stats that we may want to be look­ing at,” said Wigglesworth. 

But then being able to rewind those instances from that ana­lysts through Sportscode and see exact­ly what’s hap­pen­ing and why could then help you deliv­er, not what you think is the right mes­sage, but what is the right mes­sage because that’s what’s actu­al­ly hap­pened on pitch. So the analy­sis takes the uncer­tain­ty out of our deci­sion mak­ing and I can actu­al­ly look at this bit of detail and say, yes, that’s exact­ly what hap­pened, he made this mis­take, or we were too tight here, or too wide here — there’s no guess­work involved.”

Wigglesworth as attack coach at Championship side Ealing Trailfinders.

Another thing Wigglesworth has learned by join­ing the coach­ing ranks is that sol­id evi­dence reigns supreme over the kind of emo­tion­al deci­sion mak­ing that often takes place on the field. 

Analysis It takes the emo­tion out of deci­sion mak­ing and obvi­ous­ly the coach­es box can be a very emo­tion­al place, but some­times the abil­i­ty to just think with a clear head is key,” said Wigglesworth. The cer­tain trends in a game and also mis­takes, all the good and bad stuff you’re doing as a team, with analy­sis you know why some­thing is hap­pen­ing rather than just going on how you feel. It just lets you know that you are on the right track, because you may feel like you’ve had all of the game but actu­al­ly it’s been pret­ty even. It gives clar­i­ty to what we are think­ing and can cor­rect you if you make an emo­tion­al call rather than a cor­rect one.

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