'Total Rugby' is Jim Greenwood's legacy to the game

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SCOTTISH rugby was last night mourning the loss of former internationalist Jim Greenwood, but his death resonated further afield as figures from across the world lamented the passing of a genuine rugby thinker whose writing on rugby influenced coaches from school level to the British and Irish Lions and All Blacks.

Greenwood won 20 caps for Scotland in the 1950s and the strong and skilful back row was instrumental in leading the nation out of the doldrums of a 17-game run of defeats. He played in all four Tests, and scored tries in the first and fourth, as the 1955 British and Irish Lions drew 2-2 with South Africa, a tour in which the Lions were famed for playing a brand of 15-man rugby long forgotten in the Republic and praised by South African commentators for reawakening the Springboks to their back division.

Greenwood returned to play a key role in the Scotland back row and as skipper until suffering a broken shoulder against Ireland in 1959, which forced him to call time on his playing career at the age of 31.

Allan Massie, The Scotsman writer and author, recalled: "Although Scotland usually played him at No 8, I thought openside was Jim's best position, where he played in all four Tests for the Lions.

"He was reasonably big for the time, at 6ft 2in, but also fast about the field; a very good reader of the game and also a master of the lost art of dribbling. A lot of back row forwards of that period were principally destructive players, but he was a creative one as well and a big part of that move out of the terrible run of defeats."

On retiring from the game, Greenwood turned his full attentions to teaching, at Glenalmond College in Perthshire and for the most part of his career at Loughborough University.

But the Fifer was already forming strong views on how the game of rugby should be played to maximise its attraction among players and spectators, and after he retired as a player he would go on to become a legendary figure for his ability to write perceptively and in great detail about rugby coaching.

His most well-known title, Total Rugby, was first published in 1968 by Lepus, but re-printed by A&C Black in 1978, 1985, 1992, 1997 and 2003 due to global demand over the next 40 years. Among those to hold their copies dear and publicly say so were two knights of British coaching, Sir Ian McGeechan and Sir Clive Woodward, and current Scotland coach Andy Robinson.

In 2003, before England won the World Cup in Australia, Woodward wrote a new foreword to Total Rugby.In it he said: "I believe I was extremely fortunate as a player as I came under the influence of three great coaches - Earl Kirton, Chalky White but, most importantly, Jim Greenwood, who coached me for the four years I was at Loughborough University.

"He was well ahead of his time then…and 25 years later it (Total Rugby] is still the only book I regularly refer to. In my opinion this book is unrivalled. It sets out to give detailed solutions to coaching problems. It asks for technical excellence, without letting small mistakes slip by; demanding thorough preparation and attention to detail."

Earlier this year, in an interview with The Scotsman, Robinson reflected fondly on Greenwood as a person from his time as Loughborough. "That was a great place for me to learn," he said. "I was lectured by Jim. He was fantastic. He's a great man, very softly spoken and a fantastic rugby coach who was so far ahead of his time it was incredible. He is a man who has an aura about him.

"I remember him lecturing me on the culture of Japan, where he spent time coaching, and the sporting culture of America, as well as what was going on here of course. There's no doubt that he fuelled the desire in me."

What particularly pleased Greenwood was the popularity of his books in the southern hemisphere. He was often invited to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand to hold seminars and coaching sessions with coaches and players. The term 'total rugby' has become common in commentating on the sport, uttered by players, coaches and the media and most often through a desire for a more exciting brand of rugby to be played. Greenwood was the man to create it.

"The rugby I'm concerned with as a coach," he says, in introducing his Total Rugby concept, "is rugby at its most exciting - the fifteen-man handling game, in which every player is encouraged to show what we can do as an attacker, defender and supporting players, and in which the overall style of play gives him a chance to do so.

"This open, ebullient form of rugby is the most satisfying to players and potential players, spectators, officials and coaches. It's where the game's most memorable expression has been found in the past and where - because of its wide appeal - its future should lie.

"We need a new name for it, for play-safe coaches have found it expedient to equate 'fifteen-man rugby' with reckless abandon, typified by a slavish commitment to spinning the ball wide.I believe in fifteen-man rugby, but the quality I prize most highly in a player is judgment, and one of the qualities I most deplore in a team is a strict adherence to any single aspect of play.

"'Total Rugby' is a convenient title to describe rugby that subsumes all simpler forms of the game and uses them tactically as judgment dictates, but which seeks whenever possible to play the fifteen-man handling game."

Dutch coach Rinus Michels is credited with devising 'Total Football', and still is widely acclaimed for doing so, yet Greenwood's name is hardly known beyond the community of rugby coaches despite the Scot having expounded the rugby equivalent. A reason for that is that Greenwood stayed true to his profession, teaching at Glenalmond College before becoming an institution at Loughborough University, where a host of Britain's sporting talent, not only rugby players, would benefit from his guidance.

Scotland did not come calling for his help or advice, which the self-effacing character might not have been outwardly concerned about, but does strike one as a surprise at the very least. But his influence remained strong and alluring for many of his countrymen, even for those who never met him.

Gregor Townsend, who won 82 caps and enjoyed a victorious British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa, is now an avid reader of Greenwood's writing as the current Scotland backs coach.

He said: "I was never fortunate enough to meet him, but I was aware of Jim's reputation throughout my career and have consulted his book Think Rugby, which provides a great outline of the game as well as a tactical insight into how it can be played.

"It has been updated so many times because it is still just as relevant as when it was first written. It is seen as the seminal work on what the game is about. It is a sad day, but Jim's passing will also remind many in the world of rugby that Scotland produced one of the foremost thinkers and pioneers in rugby coaching."

Greenwood's first and really only club, Dunfermline RFC, are looking into creating some kind of memorial to their British Lion. Intriguingly, the current scrum-half, Andy Watts, will be leaving to start at Loughborough University next year, maintaining the Greenwood connection.

Colin Bright, the current president of Dunfermline RFC, said: "I don't remember him as a player, unfortunately, but Jim is a huge part of the Dunfermline story. He will be a big loss to our club, but also to the wider game of rugby. We are very proud of what Jim achieved."

Scotland and Scottish rugby will feel similarly.