Damian McGrath, who has an impressive background in rugby league as well as in union, joined the England Sevens management last November as assistant to head coach Simon Amor.
Bradford-born and a product of Cardinal Hinsley Grammar School, he was a student international in the 13-a-side game and played professionally for Swinton and Batley. He then embarked on a highly successful coaching career that has encompassed both codes of rugby at club and international level.
His first post as reserve team coach at Batley brought the club its first trophy for 65 years and led to his appointment to the staff at Leeds Rhinos, one of Rugby League’s “blue chip” clubs. Several Championship successes at academy and reserve team level for Leeds were followed by his elevation to the senior coaching team as Super League arrived in the game.
Two Challenge Cup finals, including victory in the last one played at the old Wembley Stadium, and an appearance in the inaugural Super League Grand Final in 1998 reflected the club’s growing success.
On the international stage, Damian coached the Great Britain Academy team and the Great Britain U21 side. It led to his appointment as assistant coach to the senior England team in 1999 and for the 2000 Rugby League World Cup.
In 2001 he was recruited by the RFU to the joint post of defence and skills coach for the England A team and the England Sevens team, working alongside Joe Lydon. Over a period of five years, England Sevens won four Hong Kong titles and appeared at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester and at the 2005 Sevens World Cup.
Damian also coached the England U19 side to a World Cup third-place finish in 2006 and the Junior England Sevens to a silver medal at the Junior Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2004 and was with England A at two Churchill Cups. He was also England’s defence coach for the Barbarians match in 2005.
On the club front, he had two seasons as first team skills coach at Leicester Tigers, from 2002 to 2004 and two years later began a successful stint as skills and defence coach for the Spanish RFU that coincided with their rise from 38th to 20th in the world rankings.
In 2008 he was appointed as head of performance at Huddersfield Giants back in rugby league’s Super League. Over a three-year period, he was part of a coaching team that saw the Giants rise from rock bottom to regular top-four finishes.
In 2011 he joined the Welsh Rugby Union to be head of rugby in the newly formed North Wales region. For the next two years, he oversaw the rise of the senior team (RGC) to Championship status and an academy system producing several junior Welsh internationals.
Damian is an Education graduate, obtained a Diploma in Sports Psychology at Manchester University and has lectured extensively at home and abroad on skill development and coach education, including the Global Coaching House during the 2012 Olympics. He is the author of three books on rugby skills coaching.