Women of Leinster Rugby: Tania Rosser
January 27, 2023 11:25 am Des Berry
As the Vodafone Women’s Interpro Series concluded last weekend, Leinster Rugby is continuing focusing on some of the unsung heroes making the girls and the women’s game tick across the 12 counties of Leinster.
These are their stories and their work. These are, The Women of Leinster Rugby.
THE HEAD COACH – TANIA ROSSER
For some, the announcement of Tania Rosser as the first female head coach of the Leinster Women is another sign of changing times.
For Tania, growing up in New Zealand, rugby has always been close to her heart and coaching was a natural next step for the former teacher.
“I just think I’m honoured and proud to be coach of Leinster,” she says. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter to me whether I am the first female coach or not.
“I really hope it helps female coaches have more opportunities. Even at the provincial level, they might be able to envision a route for themselves in the game.
Is it a good time to be a woman coach in Ireland?
“I believe that the time is right to work as a coach in Ireland. Is that acceptable? I see myself as a coach.
“I don’t consider myself to be a female coach. Just like I saw myself as an athlete, not as a woman playing sport.”
The ten-year veteran ex-player of Leinster and three-tournament World Cup starter for Ireland celebrated her 50th international cap by being central to a first-ever win over New Zealand in 2014.
One season later, Ireland made a clean sweep of the Six Nations to gather in the garland of Grand Slam champions.
Tania hasn’t changed her outlook: “I am the same as I was as a player and as a coach. I simply want the ideal candidate for the position.
“If female coaches are good enough and willing to stretch themselves, there are opportunities for them.
“Getting out of your comfort zone may be the most important thing. I’ll take a chance on myself. There’s a chance that not everyone will agree with me and I’m alright with that.
“But, I am willing to put myself in an uncomfortable position in order to learn. That is a hard thing for some people to do.”
She worked with the senior men’s team in Clontarf for a while, getting the chance to be on Andy Wood’s coaching staff and leading the J1s at the Castle Avenue club through 2019.
Since then, there has been time spent with the Metro U18s and the Old Belvedere Women.
“At Clontarf, I had the opportunity to observe and learn from Andy and Aaron Dundon, James Downey, and Simon (Broughton), and Brett Igoe served as my mentor as I pursued my World Rugby High-Performance Coaching credential. I’ve therefore been very lucky to be surrounded by very good coaches.”
Then, there is the additional experience of living with her partner Simon Broughton, the Leinster Academy Manager.
“There is a lot of rugby in the house. Sometimes it is hard to switch off. But, we do, to make sure we are focussed on our son Serge and his hockey for St Andrew’s College and Monkstown Hockey Club.
“It makes life easier at home when you understand what the other person is going through,” adds Tania.
“It is good to thrash out ideas to see if I am moving in the right direction and, vice versa, Simon comes looking for my thoughts and opinions.
“We mightn’t always agree on everything. That is one of the joys of coaching. We all have our own views.
“We have that appreciation for each other in that we understand the demands of the game on each other.”
Declan Kidney, Stuart Lancaster, Joe Schmidt are just some of the coaches who started out as teachers, perhaps because coaching is teaching.
“I tend to try and learn from a lot of different people. Learning is key,” stresses Tania.
“I am quite lucky in that I came into coaching from a teaching background. Dealing with people is what I have been trained to do around education.
“It is knowing how to get your message across to different players because not everyone learns or plays the same.
“I suppose, I’m at an advantage there, knowing how people learn and how I can adapt my coaching to reach the different learners within my cohort.”
The many influences have been taken in and Tania the coach is still a teacher at heart, one who governs by collaboration rather than domination.
“My biggest thing is to make sure I recognise players as people first, knowing they come from all walks of life,” she says.
“Everyone has issues, the things that are important to them. If players are not happy, how can I expect them to perform?
“I try to get to know them as people first. That is really important to me.
“I base a lot of my work around identifying as a family. I want players to know that if they need me, I will be there at the end of the phone.
“A lot of it is based around making sure they are learning, having fun and, also, being challenged. It is also important that they have a say in what they want to do as well.”
Tania is an advocate of long-term planning over short-term gains, careful in how exciting teenagers are game-managed when it comes to making the leap from Age Grade to senior rugby.
“I have been looking into that a lot, talking to other coaches in other sports as far away as America and New Zealand.
“The teams that have been successful in nurturing young talent have been those who have looked after them.
“Instead of throwing them into a full senior training programme, you need to build up their resilience for training and playing.
“It is really important because they are still at a very young training age and we don’t want them to break down.
“It is just being aware of where they are, how long they have been in the gym, what kind of physicality have they been exposed to.
“There has to be a holistic approach towards the young ones. Don’t get me wrong, some of them are fabulous and they are ready to run.
“In the long run, we want to find out what they will be like in three or four years. We need to be careful. We want them playing at the top level for years, not breaking down early.
“There is so much work to be done in that area around women in sport.”
In terms of the Interprovincial Series, Tania has encouraged Leinster to play what they see.
“We are very lucky at Leinster. We have got great pathways from our five area teams, Metro, Midlands, North Midlands, North East and South East into the Leinster U18s.
“We are in a good place when it comes to Leinster and how the Women’s game is developing. There is plenty of good coaching out on the ground around the province.
“I think we have some young, bright talent coming through which is nice.
“My biggest thing is to allow them to take risks, be open and free to have a crack, the system/structure is only there to guide them. I want them to show their flair.”