Pakistan’s new Welsh coach looks to grassroots


Pakistan’s new Welsh rugby coach Roger Coombs said Friday he was looking to develop the game at the grassroots, and suggested he was not overly worried about working in the troubled country.

The Pakistan Rugby Union (PRU) have hired the Welshman as part of their efforts to boost the game in the country, with the national team due to take part in the Asian Five Nations event in Dubai next month.

It is not easy attracting foreign coaches to Pakistan, where attacks blamed on the Taliban and other Al-Qaeda affiliates are a near-daily menace, and security is a constant worry.

Coombs, 66, is the fourth foreign coach Pakistan have hired following Rambo Leung of Hong Kong, Mike Pirrit of New Zealand and Justin Fitzpatrick of Ireland.

But all the previous coaches had short stints and Pakistan will be hoping the Welshman, who has also worked with teams in Italy, Nigeria and the US, stays longer.

“The first goal would be to win the upcoming Asian Five Nations tournament in Dubai,” Coombs was quoted by a foreign news agency.

Pakistan were relegated to the fourth tier of the tournament last year but has since launched a competitive Super League in the hope of bringing more structure to the domestic game.

“In my stay in Pakistan I will also be working on development of the game at the grassroots level which hopefully will result in a better future for Pakistan rugby,” said Coombs.

The Welshman, who has also worked with World Cup winning English coach Clive Woodward at London Irish, said he met some of the Pakistan players recently at the Dubai 7s and enjoyed an “interesting conversation” with them about Pakistan rugby.

“The PRU (Pakistan Rugby Union) got in touch with me and I become very interested in the challenge and one thing led to another and here I am,” said Coombs, who admitted to security concerns initially.

“Having made some enquiries and speaking to the previous international rugby coaches who came here in previous years I was assured there was no problem,” he said.

“Now that I am in Pakistan I won’t even have a problem inviting my family to visit while I am here.”

Pakistan has been a danger zone for international sports teams who shun tours to the country over security fears sparked in the wake of an attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team bus in Lahore in 2009.

“The players are very enthusiastic and focused and just lack proper coaching which is what I am here for,” Coombs said.

“They need to work on fitness and understanding of the whole game, and they need to understand the work required to be an international player.”

In a country where anything other than cricket struggles to get a look in, the PRU has grown rapidly since it was founded 10 years ago and now boasts more than 3,000 regular players.