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Foreign coaches: Inside information/IP flow and conflicts of interest

califauna

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Hi all I'm wornding whether anyone can shed a little light on how national set ups deal with potential conflicts of interest arising when non-native coaches join their squads.

When a coach comes in who has recently been part of their home squads and brings with them inside knowledge of how they operate, is there an expectation for full disclosure of those goodies, and does it tend to happen in reality? Presumibly it's part of whats understood in the terms of the contract to some degree, but how can this be enforced in practice?

For example take someone like Mike Proudfoot, who was an integral part of the Springboks going into 2019 WC and now is scrum coach at England. Is he expected to give up his Springbok's IP in full, thereby diminishing their chances of a win against his new squad.

Performance bonuses will obviously turn the taps to some degree, but the industry doesn't work like some others (where returning to previously employers is prohibited for a spell, or where life-long non-compete clauses are used), so who's to say there aren't 'competing interests' even there? Who's to say there isn't even a possibility that valuable information could actually flow BOTH ways if they are sufficiently 'motivated'?

I doubt you would get straight answers from many head coaches about these kinds of questions, but it would still be nice if journalists/pundits popped the question every once in a while. 🙌
 
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Cruz_del_Sur

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Interesting. Short answer, i don't know, but if you dont mind, i'll have a crack at it, speculating, course.

To begin with, i am not sure why the nationality (i.e. 'non-native coaches') plays a role. This could happen either way.
Second, I am 99% sure everyone assumes the one joining will disclose information, directly (this is what they do) or indirectly ('in my experience, this way of doing things is the best and i've seen the results first hand'). Not sure you could claim fixed formation training constitutes some sort of intellectual property.

In my experience, Eur and South America mostly, the right to work is paramount. Sure, there are non competes, people sign em and rarely challenge them. But when they do, in my experience (again) they tend to win. Unless you prove they are stealing some sort of intangible (client lists, some sort of formula/method that is registered intellectual property, etc) it is very, very, very difficult. It is also true that companies have bigger pockets and can handle the legal process better, but when and if shove comes to push, employees have a lot of leeways.
Add the fact that this would be an inter-jurisdictional issue in the overwhelming majority of the cases and pursuing any legal action seems far stretched at best.

Ledesma with Aus/Pumas, Cheika, Wyllie, Graham Henry... the list aint short.

And it's not as if a new coach would bring some magic powder that would change things overnight. He might bring an idea or a method, but as revolutionary as those might be, it would still need a LOT of effort and work to put that to practice and to make it yield results.

Coaches are not a plug and play objects. Context, current squad, opposition, etc... all play a role. If it were so easy people would replicate it and you'd expect the gap between Tier 1 and 2&3 to decrease a lot and very fast. That is not happening which suggests any secrets, if any, are not what makes the difference.

I would be very, very surprised if, for instance, something as silly as all line out calls werent changed once a coach leaves, especially if he leaves to a team that could face the one he left. I mean, we did as 11-year-olds.
It'd be stupid not to. The cost of doing so is negligible and the risk is not small.
 

Bruce_ma gooshvili

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I'd imagine sharing prior knowledge will be rife. In other sports where this is more valuable (like the NFL where teams have secret plays and codewords) teams will apparently factor in whether a player (mainly) or possibly even a coach has previous experience with a rival team so it can be used against them. Again the NFL a team was caught secretly filming a rival's training sessions. When money and success is on the line as it is in professional sport I think the safe assumption is that everyone will use any possible advantage they can find.

As to the impact of this on rugby I'm not sure inside knowledge would be all that beneficial. But I'm completely speculating on that.
 

Don't Skip Leg Day

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I’m struggling to understand what a 2019 coach could really offer in terms of secrets to any other team a year later.
Set plays change, line outs change etc just not sure in rugby it’s that helpful.
 

Bruce_ma gooshvili

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I’m struggling to understand what a 2019 coach could really offer in terms of secrets to any other team a year later.
Set plays change, line outs change etc just not sure in rugby it’s that helpful.
I imagine player tendencies (running lines, tackling technique, positional weaknesses, 'invisible bastardry' etc), but yes. Hard to imagine any of this is things a trained team analyst (which I assume pro teams have) wouldn't pick up on from studying footage.
 

Kiwiwomble

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Hi all I'm wornding whether anyone can shed a little light on how national set ups deal with potential conflicts of interest arising when non-native coaches join their squads.

When a coach comes in who has recently been part of their home squads and brings with them inside knowledge of how they operate, is there an expectation for full disclosure of those goodies, and does it tend to happen in reality? Presumibly it's part of whats understood in the terms of the contract to some degree, but how can this be enforced in practice?

For example take someone like Mike Proudfoot, who was an integral part of the Springboks going into 2019 WC and now is scrum coach at England. Is he expected to give up his Springbok's IP in full, thereby diminishing their chances of a win against his new squad.

Performance bonuses will obviously turn the taps to some degree, but the industry doesn't work like some others (where returning to previously employers is prohibited for a spell, or where life-long non-compete clauses are used), so who's to say there aren't 'competing interests' even there? Who's to say there isn't even a possibility that valuable information could actually flow BOTH ways if they are sufficiently 'motivated'?

I doubt you would get straight answers from many head coaches about these kinds of questions, but it would still be nice if journalists/pundits popped the question every once in a while. 🙌
sport isn't like a company that produces a product and so the outside world only sees the final product...not to the same degree anyway, i can imagine "IP" can be protected because any logical person would just say we worked out what they were doing from playing against them or watching them play against other peple
 

califauna

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Thanks for the thoughts above. I should point out that by IP I just mean valuable information on the squad which would provide advantage to a competitor if it same into their possession. I saw Erasmus using the term the other day when he was talking about knowledge he brought back with him from coaching in Ireland I think.

Regarding why this information might be valuable, apart from the little things mentioned above (but argued to be of questionable value), I get the impression that there is something there from what other coaches do or say. For example, take Schmidt's comments about the Springboks European Consultant, Felix Jones, when he left the Ireland set up and went to the Springboks:

If we take Schmidt's words at face value here and assume that Felix Jones going to SA is indeed 'awkward', how is someone like Sean Edwards going from Wales to France not awkward for Wales?

Also, interesting that Eddie Jones went and got someone from the only squad that beat England in WC 2019 (Proudfoot).

Generally I agree with the point above that it won't make the difference between a tier 1 and tier 2 side, but with the fine margins of the top few teams, perhaps more so?

To begin with, i am not sure why the nationality (i.e. 'non-native coaches') plays a role. This could happen either way.

I agree this isn't a necessary condition, but with non-native coaches you have the additional patriotism factor. Any coach who goes and helps another country to win is basically helping the motherland to lose.

There's also the clientelism. There is a high likelihood that a coach will seek employment back in their own country at some point further down the line, and that will always present opportunities for coaches and unions to scratch each other's backs. If Bill Beaumont and Bernard Laporte can have their voting quid pro quos why would coaches and unions be immune? Hardly beyond the realms of imagination that a coach who manages NOT to beat his own home country team in a WC will be seen in 'favourable light' when 4 years later his home nation is looking for a new head coach?


Second, I am 99% sure everyone assumes the one joining will disclose information, directly (this is what they do) or indirectly ('in my experience, this way of doing things is the best and i've seen the results first hand'). Not sure you could claim fixed formation training constitutes some sort of intellectual property.

So, are you saying here that key information doesn't flow in a 'direct' fashion? If Proudfoot knows that Malherbe is susceptible to being separated from his hooker if you do this or that move, is he not expected to divulge this 'direct' information to his new head coach?
 
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Cruz_del_Sur

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I agree this isn't a necessary condition, but with a non-native coaches you have the additional patriotism factor. Any coach who goes and helps another country to win is basically helping the fatherland to lose.
You could argue Tuilagi is helping his motherland to lose when plays for England given they could potentially face Samoa. I mean, he's on record stating Samoa is still home.
Or when CJ Stander faced RSA with Ireland.
As much as i hate to admit it, patriotism is not what drives this, at least not anymore in most cases. If you challenge me on this i'd say it is case-specific.
I have few doubts Cheika would want Arg to win if Arg faced Aus. I wouldn't be as confident arguing that when, just as an example, Ledesma was Aus's forwards coach.


There is a high likelihood that a coach will seek employment back in their own country at some point further down the line, and that will always present opportunities for coaches and unions to scratch each other's backs.
Could be, thou i sincerely doubt that's one of the criteria people select coaches on. In my experience, it is 95% skill +5% pr, and this PR only factors in if the player/coach is a nightmare or has a graveyard in his closet. Even then. I mean, look at Matera and Crusaders. He gets kicked out of Arg's captaincy and lands a job in one of the most progressive countries on the planet in a team that changed their logo because someone, somewhere, who doesn't even follow the sport, could have found it offensive. Dont try to make much sense of this.

There is a little bit of sense but this is all business, even the virtue signalling portion of it.

So, are you saying here that key information doesn't flow in a 'direct' fashion?
No. I am saying it is safe to assume it flows, period.
If coach A leaves team X, joins team Y and then while coaching Y faces X, there is not an iota of doubt in my mind that he will use all the knowledge he has to his advantage and personally, i don't see anything wrong with that. The only thing i am not 100% sure is if the exchange will be along the lines of

1) Hey, let's put pressure on this guy, i know he has trouble in this position so lets corner him here, he'll choke.

or

2) maybe we could try corning this guy, just an idea. Let's see how that goes

For practical purposes, the results will be indistinguishable. He will lead his team towards a course of action that he believes maximizes their chances of winning. How he does the convincing is anecdotal at best. Odds are we will never know.
 

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