Gustard turns to Lampard for advice on playing without fans
Paul Gustard, the Harlequins head of rugby, has revealed he has been seeking advice from Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard in how to best prepare his players psychologically for playing behind closed doors when the Premiership season resumes.
Gustard’s side will host Sale at the Stoop on Aug 14 in what will be the first Premiership match since the league was suspended in midMarch due to the pandemic.
Concerned with how his players would adapt to the empty stands, he said that he had sought out LamAnthony pard, whose Chelsea team have won seven of the nine games they have played without crowds since football’s restart.
Gustard was asked by the Football Association to get involved in coach education last summer. Since then Lampard has attended with groups of Chelsea’s coaches to share ideas with Harlequins staff.
“I have been speaking to Frank Lampard about how these players are going to go into an environment they probably haven’t experienced since they were in school, where there are no crowds,” Gustard said.
“I wanted to know how his players responded; how they found playing in empty stadiums. I wanted to know, because the unknown can lead to uncertainty.”
Gustard’s philosophy in taking ideas from other sports follows that of Eddie Jones, the England head coach, under whom he worked as defence coach. Jones has previously spoken to Roy Hodgson, the Crystal Palace manager, Olympic gold medal-winning hockey coach Danny Kerry and United States collegiate basketball coaches.
From his conversation with Lampard, Gustard has realised the importance of preparing players for their new “match-day normal” and will take them to train at the Stoop to get used to an empty stadium.
“We have to learn from other sports,” he said. “As Eddie [Jones] often says, with clarity you get confidence. So as coaches and players, it’s good for us to know and experience what we’re about to play.”
Gustard is relieved to have 72Test England veteran Mike Brown fit again, after the full-back missed the majority of the season with a knee injury. The coach believes that for all his physical presence, Brown, along with other senior players such as former England captain Chris Robshaw, possess the required mindset to thrive without the support of a crowd.
“It has to come from inside you and I think that with Mike, that is a real strength he has got that can add value to us,” Gustard said.
Clarity: Paul Gustard believes rugby can learn from other sports as he prepares Harlequins for their return to action