O'Brien Bolsters Caerleon


Exciting times could be in store for Gwent side Caerleon RFC, who have recruited former Dragon  Angus O'Brien to their new-look coaching team.

The 24-year-old's connections to the club, which lies adjacent to the town's famous Roman amphitheatre, run deep. He came through the ranks there as a junior, as did older brother Matt, who cuts a reliable figure as fly-half for Newport (when he's not head coach of the Dragons Academy). Meanwhile, younger brother Loui is part of the Caerleon first XV. (Impressively, all three have at one time or another worn the Black and Amber ten jersey.)

"With head coach Nigel 'Wiffer' Smith leaving there was a coaching shake-up," explains O'Brien on how the move came about. "The new head coach, Jon Burgess, asked if I would be keen to get involved. I love going down to Caerleon on a Saturday afternoon to watch them play anyway, but the only difference this year is that I'll now be coaching them."

A coaching team with an average age of 29 makes them one of the youngest in the Welsh leagues. Burgess is a former Dragons Academy fullback; defence coach Chris Macey has previously captained Pontypool; while forwards coach Adam Brake was recently captain of the Wales Deaf team. 

"Most importantly, we're all Caerleon boys," says O'Brien. "We all played our first rugby here, and now we're proud to be back in a coaching capacity. It's a great club. Jon's spoken about how crucial the family feel is here; one where everybody's welcome. There's always a good atmosphere down at the Broadway."

Burgess reiterates the mood at the club: "Everyone's very excited - me in particular because I'm going to be working alongside a really motivated group of coaches and players in my first season as head coach. It's an honour to have represented, captained and coached Caerleon. The fact that a top-class professional player like Angus wants to get involved is a significant boost for us." 

O'Brien himself is, unsurprisingly, a proponent of attractive rugby. "The coaches have all played to a high standard, and we've had a lot of discussions about the way we want to attack. The aim is to get this group of talented boys playing some good running rugby."

One of his proudest achievements during his time with his home region, the Dragons, was being able to play alongside his former Caerleon teammates, Tyler Morgan and Harrison Keddie.

"Hopefully we can get those two in to do a bit of coaching this season," he says, suggesting he may be as good at pulling strings off the field as well as on it. 

As a coach, he's had no shortage of inspiration. "I've worked with some great people, and you notice certain things they do that you take on board, but you also draw on your experiences as a player." For the latter, there have been glorious, match-winning days against French giants, while for the former, most fresh in the memory will be those currently coaching him at Parc y Scarlets. 

O'Brien believes fans in this country should be full of anticipation about Wayne Pivac and Stephen Jones. "The last few years have been extremely successful for Scarlets, and I don't see why they can't take that into Welsh set-up in terms of attacking structures and so on. Steve has been brilliant in creating the way we play. I think it's going to be an exciting time." 

He'll be keeping a close eye on the World Rugby Sevens Series this weekend too, having last played for them during the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, featuring alongside the likes of Justin Tipuric and former Dragons teammate Hallam Amos. His brother, Matt, has also been assisting head coach Richie Pugh at certain points this season.

"I loved my time with the sevens. As a learning experience for a young player, you can't replicate it anywhere else. Playing in 60,000-seater stadiums across the world can only benefit you as a player. I'm fully confident the boys will have a big couple of weeks now and secure status on the World Series next year."

All that experience can serve to bolster an ambitious young rugby club on the outskirts of Newport. Watch this space.

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