Over the past two decades, some of rugby’s greatest coaches have taken on the challenge of coaching a team during the Guinness Six Nations.
Some of the sport’s biggest names have made their names or cemented their legacies in the Championship, with a select few winning multiple titles as coach.
But who is the greatest Guinness Six Nations coach of them all?
Here are our picks for the ten of the greatest coaches in Guinness Six Nations history, in alphabetical order.
Fabien Galthié (France)
Galthié was a legendary player and captain for France during his career and has already made his mark since becoming coach in 2020.
In his first two Guinness Six Nations campaigns in 2020 and 2021, France finished second on both occasions – after having only finished fourth in 2019.
And in 2022 the nation returned to the top of the Championship for the first time in more than a decade, winning all five matches in a victorious campaign.
One of just two current Guinness Six Nations coaches on this list, Galthié has transformed Les Bleus in just three years in charge.
Warren Gatland (Ireland and Wales)
Gatland is undoubtedly one of the greatest rugby coaches in history, and some of his finest moments have come in the Guinness Six Nations.
After leading Ireland to a runner-up finish in 2001, Gatland took Wales to triumphs in 2008, 2012 and 2019, winning the Grand Slam on each occasion.
Those milestone moments, coupled with further runner-up placings with Wales in 2016 and 2018, have sealed his place in both Welsh rugby and Six Nations folklore.
And having returned as Wales head coach ahead of 2023, who knows where he could lead them next.
Eddie Jones (England)
After Rugby World Cup disappointment in 2015 England turned to Jones to lead them into a new era, and it proved to be an incredibly fruitful one.
In his first Championship campaign in 2016, England won the Grand Slam, and Jones led them to further Championship victories in 2017 and 2020.
Jones was named World Rugby Coach of the Year in 2017, while he also led England to second place in 2019 and the Rugby World Cup final later that year.
Add in a record-equalling 18 successive Test victories, and it is clear how big an impact the Australian had in seven years in charge.
Declan Kidney (Ireland)
There is a strong case to include Eddie O’Sullivan on this list, the Ireland boss might be the best coach not to have won the Six Nations. His successor ended the drought, Kidney leading Ireland to a first Grand Slam in 61 years.
The former Munster and Leinster head coach did that in his first year in charge, getting Ireland over the hump in 2009, with a win over France to open their campaign and a dramatic victory in Wales to close out the Slam.
While he never got back to those heights again, Kidney’s Ireland finished in the top half of the table in every year he was in charge bar his final campaign in 2013.
Bernard Laporte (France)
One of the greatest eras in France’s rugby journey came under the stewardship of Laporte in the mid-2000s.
Laporte oversaw two Grand Slam triumphs in 2002 and 2004, and two consecutive Championship triumphs in 2006 and 2007.
France also finished second in 2000 and 2005 during his spell in charge, while outside of the competition he also led them to consecutive Rugby World Cup semi-finals in 2003 and 2007.
Marc Lièvremont (France)
One of the more unusual characters in Championship history, former France flanker Lièvremont enjoyed a successful four-year stint in charge of Les Bleus.
Taking over from Laporte, he launched a new generation of French players including Morgan Parra, François Trinh-Duc and Louis Picamoles.
After successive third-place finishes, he led Les Bleus to the Grand Slam in 2010, having already achieved the feat as a player in 1998. Add in a runners-up finish the following year and a run to the World Cup final, beaten by hosts New Zealand by a single point, and you can argue that Lièvremont deserves greater recognition for his spell in charge.
Sir Ian McGeechan (Scotland)
McGeechan is one of the most revered rugby coaches in history and has led Scotland with distinction in two separate spells throughout his career.
His most recent period as Scotland coach came at the very beginning of the Guinness Six Nations in 2000, leading the country until 2003.
During that time he guided his country to a third-place finish in 2001, while he also helped Scotland seal a famous Calcutta Cup triumph in 2000.
Going back to his first stint in charge, McGeechan was also at the helm the last time Scotland won the Grand Slam, back in 1990.
Mike Ruddock (Wales)
Ruddock’s time as Wales head coach may have been short, but it was certainly sweet.
Wales had just finished fourth in the 2004 Championship when Ruddock took over, and he led them on a memorable run the following year.
The nation went on to win a first Grand Slam in 37 years in 2005 under his stewardship, and though he left the role the following year there is no doubt he made a hugely significant impact.
Joe Schmidt (Ireland)
Ireland were unstoppable at times in the 2010s and Schmidt was the man at the helm for some of their greatest triumphs.
The New Zealander guided them to consecutive Championship victories in 2014 and 2015 before a Grand Slam triumph in 2018, with Ireland also finishing second in 2017.
Schmidt was awarded World Rugby Coach of the Year in 2018 after Ireland’s Grand Slam success, and he was the first coach to lead Ireland to the top of the world rankings.
He left his role at the end of 2019 but is still fondly remembered at the Aviva Stadium.
Sir Clive Woodward (England)
Though Woodward may be best remembered for England’s Rugby World Cup triumph in 2003, he also made an indelible mark elsewhere.
Woodward coached England to Six Nations victories in 2000, 2001 and 2003, winning the Grand Slam on the latter occasion.
He also guided the team to a runner-up finish in 2002, as well as two second places in the Five Nations in 1998 and 1999, and a third-place finish in 2004.
Arguably England’s greatest ever coach, Woodward’s achievements stand the test of time.
Leave a Reply