United Kingdom Armed Forces Rugby is pleased to announce that Olympic Gold medal winning coach, Ben Ryan, as an ambassador. If winning gold with Fiji, at the first Olympics that rugby sevens, was a high point of a thirteen year coaching career; then it remains only part of an impressive life cv that has embraced many of the values that are held at the core of Service life and rugby football.
Ben Ryan, a former Cambridge University blue, was on the winning Varsity Match side in both 1995 and 1996. In those days, Cambridge University were coached by the legendary Tony Rogers. Ryan’s parody of Roger’s and his famous duffle coat in his earliest coaching days on the side line showed that despite Ryan’s fiercely competitive nature there was a lighter, humorous side, with perhaps an eye for mischief.
His coaching career started at ‘Teddies’, Oxford’s St Edward School where his success was recognised by Newbury whom he joined as backs’ coach before becoming their Director of Rugby. Whilst at Newbury he completed his level four coaching award, on the same course as Shaun Edwards, Mike Friday and Martin Haag and was highlighted in 2005 as one of the coaches to watch for the future due to his innovative ideas, desire for attacking rugby and his ability to communicate his message. Indeed, it was Robert Kitson, of the Guardian, who proved quiet prophetic when in December 2005 he wrote:
In 1990 a bright former Loughborough University teaching graduate turned up at Henley RFC preaching ideas so far ahead of their time that everyone said he was bonkers. Seven years later Clive Woodward was coaching England and the world has never quite recovered. To be at Newbury RFC this week, listening to an even brighter former Loughborough student dismissing conventional rugby theory as bunkum was to wonder if history is about to repeat itself.
Whilst at Newbury Ryan tapped in to the surrounding talent afforded by players serving locally from both the Royal Air Force and Army along with a stray Royal Marine seeking a higher level of rugby. The Royal Marine, Greg Barden was to be Ben’s captain when he went on to manage England Sevens where he also furthered the already exceptional talents of the Army’s Damudamu.
Just prior to stepping down as England Seven’s coach, he coached Great Britain to their first World University title before being recruited by Fiji as their National Seven’s coach. Since the well documented Olympic win he has been very active as a much in demand coaching consultant across a number of sports and earlier this year accepted a role with the Welsh Rugby Union where his talents in all aspects of planning to perform will be fully utilised. The role includes involvement with all of Wales’ representative teams, except for the Senior XV, which includes the Wales Women squad along with their Service players, Charlotte Murray Sian William ( both RAF) and Gemma Rowland (Army).
An analysis of both Ben Ryan’s playing and his coaching career may, on the surface, uncover several contradictions. He was a coach who was one of the first adopters of GPS technology but has also rejected the hyperbole that often surrounds the science of rugby. He has been a strict disciplinarian in the standards he expects from his teams but has always given players and coaches a second chance. However, throughout his career there has always been a clear philosophy that has not been shaken or altered and it is a path that accords with the UK Armed Forces. Team sport, like the forces, works best when individuals always seek to be the best they can and are then prepared to give themselves fully to their team. When this is achieved surrounded by a supportive culture then the rest takes care of itself – more or less!