Regardless of the sport every team in the world will have their leadership group or a leader. These are the individuals that shape the conduct and set the standards for those around them and without true quality being housed in that group achieving success, or changing the way a side operates, becomes hugely challenging.
This is the reason why Dean Ryan shopped so carefully at the Worcester Warriors, both when they were in the Championship and now that they are back in the Premiership bun fight. Individuals like Donncha O'Callaghan and Phil Dowson may not be quite as quick or athletic as they once were however their man management skills are first-class. Since the opening round Chris Pennell, GJ van Velze, Donncha and Phil have consistently been the top performers on the field for the Warriors. They have topped the metres made charts, made the try-saving tackles and ultimately been the ones driving the side forwards. Now clearly Worcester's results haven't turned... yet. However I believe that if they seal the deal and gain one big scoop soon then they'll press on and make life extremely challenging for those around them at the foot of the table.
In the West Country Stuart Hooper's work and leadership have been eulogised until the cows come home and for a good reason. 'He is the best captain that I have ever worked with' are the words stated by his Director of Rugby and those around him praise 'his calm demeanour' and ability to 'provide direction' when everything becomes a little crazy and chaotic. However the man himself will tell you that he doesn't do it alone and individuals like Francois Louw are vital.
Already it has been a long season for the Springbok however his World Cup experiences, in particular losing to Japan on day two of the tournament, have added to his leadership bank and ability. Francois knows that he has a vital role to play in helping to put Bath back onto an upward trajectory;
"Obviously it is a little stressful at the moment, the games are pretty tight these days and haven't quite been going our way. When things are going your way then it is a lot easier to play well when everyone else around you is also playing well. However, when things aren't going your way that is when true character is shown and when the guys have to start digging deep. It puts pressure on individuals to execute repetitively to the best of their ability and hopefully I can achieve that and help assist the team in getting a few victories."
The proof is often in the pudding, just ask the Falcons about the reasons behind their recent upturn form. The answers will all point you in one direction; the direct impact that key leaders, Nili Latu and in particular Andy Goode, have had on the side. Dean Richards persuaded Andy out of retirement, not for his fitness levels, but for his approach to the game and experience. The fly-half doesn't care what others think and that is a mindset that is benefitting those aroud him. Newcastle have been bashed about for years, season-on-season they find themselves in an emotionally draining battle for survival and their form against most Premiership sides is poor. Each week we write them off because they haven't beaten Team X side since 2006 or Team Y since 2008 but Goode couldn't give two hoots about that and now neither do the rest of the squad. Instead they are embracing the challenges in front of them and smashing their opponents down one Premiership match at a time.
Ultimately when it comes down to it the coaches cannot play the matches for their squads. Instead they have to do everything that they can to prepare their sides during the week and then put their trust in their players and, most of all, their leaders on the field. Physical prowess and executing game plans with precision are both vital components to winning rugby matches however without clear direction and leadership success is extremely difficult to achieve.