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Rupert Harden Joins as Director of Rugby

01st September 2023


Rupert Harden

Oakham School is delighted to announce the appointment of Rupert Harden to the position of Director of Rugby.

Rupert takes over the role from Andrew Rice, who remains an integral part of the rugby coaching team across the School.

He joins from Denstone College in Staffordshire, where he held the post of Director of Rugby, whilst also working as Head Coach at Staffordshire County RFU and Cheltenham Saracens Rugby Club.

Previously, he was a Junior Academy Coach at Leicester Tigers, where he retains good connections. He also has extensive knowledge of developing a women’s rugby programme, having been Forwards and Defence coach for Hartpury Women’s RFC.

As a player, Rupert enjoyed a successful professional rugby career. After progressing through the Newcastle Falcons Academy, he played for Gloucester and Benetton Treviso. He also featured in the senior England squad under Stuart Lancaster for a tour of South Africa in 2012.

Speaking about his new role, Rupert explained: “I’ve always enjoyed coaching. I coached a few teams when playing pro as well. I enjoy working with the players. It’s incredible to see the improvements you can make with young players.

“I enjoy working in schools and being part of something bigger than yourself.

“I think the game of rugby is awesome, because it challenges and creates a work ethic and teamwork ethos”

Rupert Harden

Rupert has a clear vision for what he wants to achieve at Oakham School. “Fundamentally, there’s a way I want us to play as a first team. The reality of schools’ rugby is that we need to think about what we’re preparing players for when they play. The opportunities that come out of rugby are only growing.

“I view my job at Oakham as to prepare the pupils to be able to, for example, go to university and play rugby for three years. Maybe get a scholarship.

“But in order to do that, we need to play a style of rugby which matches the universities, which is always a stripped-back version of what the pro game is doing.

“So if you watch our First XV and then turn on the TV and watch Leicester Tigers or Sale or anybody else, you should recognise aspects of what we’re trying to do, around patterns, line-outs, defence and so on. It’s really important that we’re preparing our players for what the game is, not what we wish the game was.

“With that in mind, the best thing about a school environment like this is that I get to work with the players from u11 upwards, so you can hammer the basics and all the terminologies you want to align throughout your programme, as well as our expectations and standards.”

But for Rupert, it’s not just about the First XV. He is passionate about as many people as possible enjoying the game and the benefits participation in it bring to young people.

“I also want to make sure that the game is accessible to everybody. I want to challenge players to see how far they can develop, but it’s still got to be really enjoyable.

“The big challenge for me is to find that balance between pushing the top level on while still allowing the players who are there just to enjoy the game to play with some structure but in a less rigorous environment.”

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