Stuart Lancaster, England's head rugby union coach, and Dave Brailsford, the man behind Britain's cycling success, have set up a unique talking shop of leading coaches from across different sports. Lancaster this week leads England into his second Six Nations with a long-term goal of winning the World Cup on home soil in 2015 and is keen to garner any advantage he can towards that aim, including this innovative link-up.
The group, which includes Mike Forde, director of football operations at Chelsea, Geoff McGrath of McLaren and Damien Comolli, Liverpool's former director of football, will meet again in April as a forum for the swapping of ideas and practices across sport. Currently it is an informal arrangement but Brailsford has revealed he is keen for it to become a more regular, formalised get-together and to attract wider involvement from across Europe and the US.
Lancaster too is an enthusiast, buying into Brailsford's belief that there is much to be gained through sporting crossover, a factor that while common in Olympic sports remains rare in larger team sports such as rugby union and football. "No one knows everything," said Lancaster yesterday of his backing for the idea.
"Stuart's doing well at the moment and he's an interesting guy," said Brailsford, Team Sky's principal and performance director at British Cycling. "We're looking to get more people involved. We're meeting next at the end of April. You get a group of people together [and] you get a different perspective. It's good to try and [we want to] start picking off people from Europe and America."
The group has met once so far, but will reconvene once the Six Nations, which England open against Scotland on Saturday, is complete. Lancaster said: "I am really keen on the continued exchange of ideas between high-level coaches. This is the early stage but I am very hopeful something fruitful will come out of it."
The idea was first discussed when Brailsford and Lancaster had dinner together last year after Lancaster made a presentation to a conference at Stamford Bridge. Brailsford has been a pioneer in bringing coaches from outside cycling into the sport – Team Sky have recently recruited Shaun Stephens, Australia's Olympic triathlon coach – and is renowned for his attention to small detail, the "marginal gains" credited as a cornerstone of the success of Britain's Olympic cyclists at the last two Games.
Lancaster has already revealed himself to be an admirer of Brailsford's approach by recruiting Matt Parker, British Cycling's head of marginal gains. One of Parker's 2012 hits was "Project Golden Hour" that ensured his cyclists remained warmed-up and fresh during the hour between the semi-finals and finals in the Velodrome – the athletes used "hot pants" that had been trialled on England's sevens team earlier in the year.
Brailsford is close to Clive Woodward through the former England and British Lions coach's role with the British Olympic Association and the two exchanged ideas in the build-up to the Olympics. Forde, who has been with Chelsea for five years, also has rugby links, having worked with the All Blacks, as well as with formula one through time with British American Racing. Forde made his name at Bolton when the club became known for the number of backroom staff employed by Sam Allardyce.
McGrath oversees McLaren Applied Technologies, an off-shoot of the F1 team that came up with the bike Mark Cavendish rode in the 2011 Tour de France as well as helping Amy Williams win Olympic skeleton gold in 2010. Under McGrath's guidance the company has designed technology to monitor how quickly a player tires on the pitch.
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