The Greatest Rugby Coaches of All Time

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In any sport, coaches come and go. Some are good, some aren’t. Some are forgotten and some are remembered. Then, there are those that are immortalised for what they brought to the sport and the long-term effects that their tenures had.  

Rugby union is no different. The game has been graced by some big names, with huge ambitions, and the nous needed to achieve them. It’s not always trophy hauls that equal greatness, though, and many have built excellent reputations based upon their inspiration or ability to coach something out of nothing. So, who are our picks for four of the greatest rugby coaches in history?

4. Eddie Jones

He may reportedly only have a year to save his job, at present, but the Australian coach has done enough in the game to earn himself the first spot on this list. After an impressive-enough haul with Japan and Australia, Eddie Jones has gone on to cement himself as one of England’s greats with two Six Nations Championships, claiming the Triple Crown for the side’s efforts in 2016.

A disappointing Six Nations aside, Jones has the kind of track record that any international coach would love. He revitalised an England side that was in dire need of a pick-me-up after some less than impressive displays. If he can mastermind a first World Cup win since 2003 when he takes charge of England at Japan 2019, he’ll surely have done enough to creep up any list.  

3. Jake White

In 2004, rugby in South Africa was far removed from what was expected by Springboks fans. After falling well short at the 2003 World Cup, the powers that be surprised the rugby world when appointing a somewhat inexperienced coach in Jake White.

White had delivered silverware for his nation in the shape of an U-21 World Cup but he was still seen as a gamble when he was brought in as saviour. Nevertheless, the bold choice paid off when the Johannesburg-born tactician brought home a Tri-Nations trophy in his first year, before ensuring his name would be remembered in world rugby when his South Africa side denied England two-in-a-row in the 2007 World Cup final. 

2. Bob Dwyer

The previous two entries on this list are both similar in that they’ve turned teams around in relatively short careers, and have both been involved in the game extremely recently. Bob Dwyer was known for his no-nonsense approach from the early 80s, well into the 2000s.

As a coach at both club and international level (he took charge of Australia in two separate stints), Dwyer enjoyed a great deal of success. A World Cup-winner with the Wallabies, his record at club level in the UK consisted primarily of flirting with achieving the ultimate goal with Leicester and Bristol. It was, however, his ability to maintain his hard-but-fair demeanour that earned him plaudits – not many could earn the nickname Barb Dwyer (Barbed Wire) and still be respected by so many in the professional game.

1. Rod Macqueen

From one Wallaby to another; Rod Macqueen took over the Australia national side two years after Dwyer vacated the hot seat. Few could have predicted that his achievements would go on to eclipse the tenure of the inimitable Dwyer. That’s just what he did, though.

As well as claiming another World Cup trophy in 1999, he would go on to lead the nation to victory in the Tri Nations, and a series scalp of a Martin Johnson-led Lions squad. It was after that final success that Macqueen would step down from coaching professional rugby. He did so with one of the greatest win ratios of any coach – around 81%. He was one of the greatest rugby coaches of all time – and truly a great of sport.

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