An exciting opportunity! Chatting to Gloucester-Hartpury Women coach James Forrester
He’s a former fan favourite from the cherry and whites, now making a name for himself as an up and coming young coaching talent with Gloucester-Hartpruy Women. We caught up with James Forrester to see how he’s settling in.
After a couple of years working with the university side at Hartpury James stepped in as forwards and defense coach with the women’s side this summer. “I’ve been working with Sean Lynn for a while” he says, “he was doing the BUCS as well. He’s a great coach and a good guy. The women’s game is growing really fast… so it was an exciting opportunity!”
Forrester is quick to acknowledge the gifted forward group he has to work with, littered with Welsh and Scottish internationals as well as Re Roses Ellena Perry and England player of the year Zoe Aldcroft.
I wonder if he has noticed any differences to how he approaches coaching, moving from the BUCS side into the Allianz Premier 15s but James is quick to tell me it’s not a lot different to his time playing in the Premiership and the elite talent there, these women really are elite in their own right, but there is one thing he will admit to. “Just the kicking really” he concedes when comparing the two leagues, “Women don’t tend to get as much distance on their kicks which does change the game a bit and, in some ways, makes it more interesting. There’s less point in kicking a lot as you’re less likely to get territory.” It’s a good point and one that leads teams to build a more flowing passing game that, to this writer’s eyes at least, is far more entertaining for the neutral.
In previous seasons this team have seen themselves firmly ensconced in the battles for the top four, but this season Gloucester-Hartpury have dipped into the lower half of the table. “We really want to make our home ground a fortress and push up our home win percentage. If we can do that and then pick up a few away wins we’ll be there or thereabouts”
It’s not like Glos haven’t been giving teams a hard time, their closely fought game against Loughborough a few weeks back is a classic example of the parity in the Premier 15s. There are a couple of teams firmly atop, one adrift and the rest are more than capable of beating each other on any given day.
This week is another tough encounter away at Sale, the home fixture in November was a battle that the red and whites won, so they’ll be hoping to do the same as they head north. “they’ve got a big pack and some big ball carriers who caused us some damage last time around” Forrester reflects, “we’ve been really focused on our defensive lines and winning the gain line battle. They’ve obviously got a pretty special player at fly-half who puts them in good field position so our back three will have to work hard.”
It’s no shock that Katy Daley-Mclean is picked out as a key threat, but in Mo Hunt there is a talismanic half back to counter with.
Given Forrester’s past at Kingsholm I couldn’t resist asking his thoughts on George Skivington’s men and their season so far before I let him go. “After my retirement it took me a few years to get back into rugby, but I don’t mind admitting I’m a big Gloucester fan these days!” He tells me. “I don’t think they’re as bad a team as the league position suggests. They’ve invested in some good young coaches but they lost some world class players through the covid period. I’m confident they’ll finish the season well and kick on well.”
From just a few minutes on the phone I get a bit of a feel for James and he’s an engaging guy with some great insight and a manner that would, I imagine, be just right for coaching at the elite level. He’s relaxed but sure of himself and if his coaching career is anywhere near as successful as his playing one we should all keep an eye on him!