Gus­tard turns to Lam­pard for advice on play­ing with­out fans

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Kate Rowan

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

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