Kelly Brown, the former Scotland captain, is juggling playing and also coaching the Saracens Academy this season for the Aviva Premiership and European Champions Cup double champions.
It is the latest example of Sarries keeping things “in-house” and ensuring that vital rugby experience is not lost when key players finish their careers. Charlie Hodgson retired last season and is head of Sarries player recruitment and Brown is now on a path that will see him eventually become one of the full time Academy coaches.
Brown, 34-years-old, has played three times for the champions this season and captained the Saracens Storm, coached by Ian Vass, to a 29-23 victory over Bath last week in a match that featured members of the club’s Academy.
Brown, who won 64 Scotland caps, said;” I now have a split Saracens role – I am a player and also an Academy coach. It has been done with a view to me becoming a full time Academy coach and so playing for the Storm is really important. I can see things in a game that as a coach you won’t see from the touchline.
“ I helped coach the Navy last season and I will be doing that again this season. I was thinking about my future and about three years ago I sat down and asked myself what was my passion and it was rugby. Therefore, it makes sense to go into coaching when I finish playing. I do have the knowledge from playing, but coaching is also about how you speak to players and the emotional side of the role.
“That is something that I feel I am strong at and in the summer I did my level Two coaching and next summer it will be Level Three because with the playing and the coaching it is incredibly full-on at the moment. I won’t have time until next summer.
“In the next season or two I will be full time in the Saracens Academy and at the moment, I am more of a back-up player in the squad rather than front line. However, if there are injuries I will jump at the chance to play and have been involved in three Premiership games already this season which has been great.
“ I am also playing with the Storm and I was delighted with our victory at Bath this week and it was great to see what kind of stuff the young players are capable of. It is a case of on the job training!”
Brown has specialist knowledge about back row play and is well qualified to examine Maro Itoje’s ability to switch to that position if Eddie Jones does not give Leicester’s Mike Williams a first cap against South Africa at Twickenham on November 12. Itoje ended the third test with Australia in the summer on the flank in a back row completed by Billy Vunipola and Chris Robshaw and this could be the starting trio against the Springboks.
Brown said:” Whatever challenge Maro has faced in his short career so far, he has risen to it and will do that again. Eddie has been looking for a scavenging open side like Michael Hooper and David Peacock but hasn’t found one yet and so he wants his best players on the pitch. There are some guys who can play in several shirt numbers and Maro is definitely one of them and can play second row and back row. “