Salisbury have merged youthful talent with a ball-handling mindset

He hasn’t gone quite as far as ex-Springbok coach Harry Viljoen, who once banned his team from kicking in a Test against Argentina. But Mark Bugden is preaching the same message at Salisbury – with stunning results. “I may be a second-row,” says Bugden, “but I’m an advocate of running rugby. I like to see the ball being moved around.”

MD of a local construction company, head coach Bugden set about dismantling Salisbury’s more rigid playing style after taking the reins towards the end of the 2009-10 season. The ‘heads up’ style was rewarded with last year’s Southern Counties South title, and the loss of nine squad members last summer hasn’t affected momentum, a core of ex-colts filling the breach with aplomb.

Prop Luke Esnouf, a mobile and dynamic ball-carrier who with wing Tom Pottage is one of the league’s top try-scorers, typifies the new Salisbury approach. So, too, back-row brothers James and Jonny Kay, part of a team that romped through January with wins against Swindon (46-14), Witney (38-0), Olney (67-0) and Buckingham (17-16) to cement second spot in South-West One East.

Canterbury Kitbags

Their push for top spot – and instant promotion – has been facilitated by specialist sprint and fitness coaches, the appointment of a second-team coach, Richie Appleton, and the recent launch of a coaching academy to raise the skill levels of 30-odd youngsters from non rugby-playing schools. Bishop Wordsworth, where Bugden played in the same XV as Worcester DoR Richard Hill, is the only rugby school in the city.

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This article appeared in the April 2012 issue of Rugby World Magazine.

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