Nick Easter Interview: Stepping back into rugby and an insight into the mind of Steve Borthwick

Nick Easter has recently being appointed Director of Rugby at National One club Chinnor

He may still be waiting to take charge of his first match as Chinnor's new Director of Rugby, but Nick Easter hasn't been twiddling his thumbs at Kingsey Road.

Whilst the postponements have clouded his early vision for the National One club, his message exudes clarity and purpose.

Since gaining promotion to the third tier in 2018, the Black and Whites have never shied away from being ambitious and Easter wants to get the Oxfordshire outfit firing again.

As the season enters its Christmas break, Chinnor find themselves just one point above the relegation places albeit with two games in hand.

"It wasn't that hard [to accept the role]," Easter tells National League Rugby. "The first week of December was my first week and I had to put the lay of the land out there in terms of expectations, certainly from a rugby perspective, to the first team who have probably been underperforming.

"We haven't had much training because of the weather, but we've had a few conversations in certain groups and they seem like a really, really good group of lads that lost a bit of direction and motivation this year. My role is to give them that, renew that and give it fresh life."

Much of the interview is centred around Chinnor and Easter's appointment, but his decision to drop down two divisions in order to step back into rugby comes just two months after he lost his job as defence and forwards coach when Worcester Warriors went into administration. 

The former England No.8 says "he lives for the contest every week" and he is "looking forward" to the new challenge that awaits him in National One.

"An ex-playing colleague of mine, Jordan Turner-Hall, sort of knew a few of the guys here and they had parted ways with the previous DoR and asked someone to fill the spot," Easter explains. "The decision makers said they are much better than their league position tells you apparently so they asked if I would be interested.

"I said yeah but I would need to know what the whole role is, what the requirements are in terms of the priorities, in terms of the day-to-day running, the weekly running and all that kind of stuff. Another thing was seeing how far away it was from Cheltenham where I now live and it is not too bad.

"It is great to be getting back into guiding a group of hungry, passionate young men in a game that I love. Whether they are paid full-time or not makes no difference to me and now I want to get them back on the road which is basically them performing at their potential."

Easter's move into National One will undoubtedly draw attention due to his track record as a player and as a coach. His accomplishments include playing in three World Cups for England, making 281 appearances for Harlequins and he also honed his coaching skills with the Premiership club before working with Natal Sharks in South Africa and then Newcastle Falcons.

It is obvious he expects high standards and the early level of detail he has delved into in order to turn Chinnor's fortunes around is also impressive when you factor in the club haven't played a competitive match since his arrival because of the sub-zero temperatures which have recently hit the country.

Rather than dotting the i's and crossing the t's ahead of the festive break, Easter has been downloading footage from some of Chinnor's matches this season to identify their strengths and weaknesses.

"I have watched enough games now so I have used the time to see what has been happening and changed a few things up in terms of system, kept a few things that have obviously worked and that the players have enjoyed," Easter adds.

"I watched obviously the Hull game, the Cambridge game, the Esher game [Chinnor's last three matches], the Rams game from last time and a couple of other games.

"I also like to sort of pick the top sides like your Sale FC's, Rosslyn Park's, Rams. I watch those games because that is who you compare yourself to and where you want to sort of aspire yourself to be as well.

"I know I have my own set of standards and expectations that I require. From what I have seen, they are not being done on a consistent basis but without proper training and without being able to guide them and be on top of them in terms of delivering unforgiving high standards, it is quite difficult.

"You try and set the mindset and get to know them but you want them to have a bit of craic as well. You have got to remember they are part-time and it is a really good rugby club so they have got to enjoy their time."

Easter also made it clear he wants to improve Chinnor's forward pack if they are to begin heading in the right direction, referencing last year's National One champions Caldy who were excellent in this department en route to their historic promotion-winning campaign.

How quickly the former England international will be able to make his mark, only time will tell but the short-term ambitions for the Black and Whites will be to start climbing the table.

The competitive nature of the third tier means that isn't a straightforward task but Easter won't be putting himself under too much pressure to deliver immediately, with third-placed Rosslyn Park set to be his first assignment on January 6th.

"What that [fixture] could do is give me a much better gauge to the naked eye of exactly where we are at and what we need to do on the training paddock or what we need in recruitment.

"There has already been a lift in the guys from the last two games they have played. Against Cambridge, they were very close away from home and Hull, although they are bottom of the league, it is a long way away and you have just got to do a job and they managed to pick up the five points there. The spirit since I have turned up seems to be in pretty good shape and that is always a nice start.

"I think the main thing for me is to just get them to overachieve really. I don't know what that looks like at the moment. Look, I want to win games but I am not obsessed with winning games, especially at the start. Like we have spoken about, there is a number of changes, First is mindset and my big message will be whatever is happening on the scoreboard, keep buying into what we are trying to do because eventually, however many games in or whatever it might be, it will turn around for you."

Easter will be keen to get stuck into the role further in 2023 and he will be interested to see how one of his former teammates also gets on as a No.1.

New England head coach Steve Borthwick was Easter's international captain during their playing days and he believes the appointment of his former skipper is the right decision by the Rugby Football Union.

"He has got a very good coaching CV," adds Easter. "There was no doubt he was going to make a good coach when I was playing with him. He was meticulous with his detail. He wasn't the most talented player, but he would work relentlessly.

"From a conditioning point of view, he was following his stopwatch to the second between sets in the gym! He wouldn't veer off that. Other people like myself might get involved with a bit of chit-chat or a bit of banter or you might do a set a little bit earlier or a little bit late. He was watching his watch and not getting involved in that kind of thing.

"He is a very serious man. He is all about self-improvement and he is obsessed with that with his players. He has been outspoken about really wanting to help players achieve their potential and improve them every single day. One thing that you hear from people that they always say about Steve is that he will provide the clarity. 

"That's what England have been missing. I think Eddie was brilliant for the first four years but it just seemed very muddled. He will be brilliant whoever he joins after this because he always has an immediate impact but after four years and the last three years, it just seemed to be very muddled in his selections, in his gameplan, in his thinking, in his messages and you could see it.

"England have got fantastic talent and Steve could be the one to unleash it. I am not saying we are world beaters at the moment because I think international rugby is so very strong that anyone can beat anyone on any given day when you look around but again, as I say about Chinnor, I just want to see an England team that stands for something in terms of their identity."