Richmond Rugby Club has a clear understanding of why it does what it does. For
Steve Hill, RFC Director of Rugby, going into his tenth season in charge, ethos is the
key to the future of the club.
“People come to this club because they want to truly enjoy their rugby experience.
We offer that for male or female players of all abilities and ambitions. We are very
serious about our rugby but when the training and playing is done we are also very
serious about having a good time.”
Twenty years ago, Richmond was one of the first clubs to embrace professional
rugby. Like many then and since they got things wrong. The club was forced into
administration, was dropped to the bottom of the leagues by the Rugby Football
Union lost all their senior players and had to start again with a squad predominantly
made from their Under 19s. However, a slow climb up the leagues saw them back at
Level 4 in 2007.
Hill arrived in April 2010 and since then Richmond has moved from National 2 South
(Level 4) to the giddy heights of the Championship (Level 2). What is unique about
the Club’s journey is that the conduit to success has not been simply a case of
“Many of the clubs at Levels 4 and 3 were paying players big money but that did not
guarantee a victory. What gives you a chance of success is having the right type of
people all working together, enjoying each one another’s company both on and off
the pitch. Rugby is the archetypal team game where playing for your team mates
and being unselfish are keys to success. We built a strong team; a club ethos and
spirit that others could not match.”
In 2016, the part-time players of Richmond were promoted into the full-time
professional Championship league.
“No one gave us a chance of surviving. All my team members have full-time jobs and
each Saturday we were playing against professional athletes. It was a huge step up,
but we adjusted, worked harder, improved and in three seasons in the Championship
defeated all the teams at least once, except London Irish and Bristol.
So how did this group of amateur players compete so effectively?
Hill said, “Attracting the right type of person was vital. We brought in players who
were coachable, ambitious, and sociable. We rejected those star players with egos
who take up too much time. Each player had to possess a ‘work hard, play hard’
mentality. We increased the amount of competition for places in the 1st XV by
building a very strong 2nd and 3rd XV.
“Every player knew if they did not perform they could be dropped. The Club used its
finances to build as professional an environment around the players as possible; the
calibre of the coaches was very high; the medical and physiotherapy support was
excellent; and the organisation around the squads was strong. These elements
allowed the players to thrive.
“The social side was well organised, culminating each season in a tour. We started
small with long weekends to Brussels and Edinburgh, but since then we have
travelled to Cape Town, Texas and last season we took 74 players to Buenos Aires.
The organising and fundraising for these trips by the team is another way of them
working together, which then transfers onto the rugby pitch.
“A key component has been continuity. We have had limited turnover in coaches and
players. It takes time to get to know players and the role of coaches is to improve
them, not just go out and recruit new ones. We also make efforts to develop the
team members as individuals.
“The coaches and the senior players devised a very clear way of how we were going
to play. We may have had our ups and downs, but our understanding of who we are
remains clear and consistent.”