A strong voice in the wings at Los Teros

Craig White, a high performance coach working with Uruguay, is among a growing number of World Rugby consultants developing Tier 2 nations.

OITA, 7 Oct – Humility and a dogged dedication to serve are Craig White's defining traits and, listening to him, it is hard to believe he is involved at all.

Yet there is no disguising his delight as he kneels, far right above, with the Uruguay team and roars in celebration at their momentous victory over Fiji.

For White, a former strength and conditioning coach with Wales, Wasps, Leicester Tigers and the British and Irish Lions, a team's health and well-being are central to his work. And at Rugby World Cup 2019, his extensive knowledge and experience are helping Tier 2 Uruguay.

In Japan as a World Rugby consultant for Los Teros, with whom he has worked for several years, he has helped the South American union develop a relationship with the game's global governing body, which has led to Uruguay making genuine progress on the field of play.  

"When I began to work for World Rugby, there weren't too many external consultants willing to back emerging nations. Then, all of a sudden, there was a growing interest. By supporting teams indirectly through consultancy instead of direct cash-flow, it can be a good alternative to provide support," White said.

"With Uruguay, it's been a case of providing external support without focusing exclusively on their physical form, but also helping them to back themselves, which is vital. 

"This is achieved when somebody who isn't vying for a staff position but still falls within their structure can pose questions and address issues with the sole purpose of peaking the performance."

White's RWC experience with Los Teros is not new: he spent eight weeks with them ahead of the 2015 tournament, and returned, he said, "to provide support and help them make it to the World Cup (in Japan), and we made it".

After Uruguay went winless at their third RWC four years ago, White featured prominently on their road to Japan.

World Rugby gave its full support, and handed the URU responsibility for organising three Nations Cup tournaments – that Uruguay won – as well as a World Rugby U20 Trophy.

Whenever Uruguay or his role come up for discussion, White's face lights up.

"Thankfully, I think it's been very beneficial to them and to all of us, myself included," he said. "We established a few guidelines because when you see unions that have scarce financial resources, many of the employees are covering two or three jobs, not just their own.

"In Uruguay's case, I was informed that they had a full-time working schedule but in reality a good part of the staff hold down a second or third job, and that affects the entire project.

 "We strategically set out a path and a focus to help distinguish between what was essentially important and what wasn't. We endeavoured to provide the best guidance towards development and growth. That was my main purpose when I joined.

"For them, for me, for World Rugby, it has been, and continues to be, greatly useful."

White observes. A lot. Then he talks, but just a little. And only when necessary.

"My work is mostly centred around mentoring. This means that I try to assist in setting everything up in a holistic way. To check and audit all processes and help in organising them, to map a pathway and draw up guidelines, but, above all, what I love the most about my job is to help build character as well as a working taskforce with a clear mission, to lend a helping hand in anything and everything that make those guidelines and patterns attainable, feasible and easy to follow.

"And I think in Uruguay we have done superbly. Our mission was accomplished and we are well on track to achieve even more in the future."

Uruguay's victory against Fiji in their RWC 2019 opener, and their performance against Australia later in the tournament, were clear indications of Los Teros' progress since the last World Cup. 

"Our efforts are aimed at building character, unity, team spirit and strength," said White. "These push a team forward, and this fuels my passion. You can find that passion here."

White's embedding within the URU set-up leads to him naturally referring not to "them" but "us". He is clearly ingrained within the team. 

RNS ea/jg/jb/pp/ajr/se/sw