The Big Interview: Luke Charteris on lineouts, looking smug and life after rugby
Luke Charteris has switched his boots for the coaching box at Bath Rugby.
At the age of 36, and after 16 years at the coalface in Wales, France and England – not to mention his 74 international caps – the lock’s playing days are finally behind him.
The newly-installed lineout coach in the West Country has therefore had some adjusting to do this summer.
But the legendary lock is loving life the other side of the white line – just don’t tell his players…
He said: “It’s been good not to be battered around, not to wake up every morning feeling bruised, tired and sore.
“I am sweating a lot less than normal summers so I can’t complain.
“Day one of pre-season when I saw the boys get put through their paces I was 100 percent convinced I had made the right call.
“The challenge was just trying not to look too smug when they were running along and I was just stood there watching.
🎟️ | Tickets are now on General Sale for our opening two fixtures of the 2019/20 season at the Rec.
— Bath Rugby (@bathrugby) August 19, 2019
“The body was giving up last year so it was definitely time.”
In truth, Charteris has been considering a switch to coaching for three years now, and by the end of his playing career it was Monday at the chalkboard rather than Saturday at the Rec that was giving him the most pleasure.
Charteris will be in charge of the lineout at Bath, but with a wider remit under Stuart Hooper’s new coaching set-up to give his opinion on all facets of the game.
The former second row has spent hours with both the academy and Bath University teams over the last year or two honing his craft.
And after a summer of plenty of change both on and off the pitch since Todd Blackadder’s departure, Charteris is ready to make a difference in his new role.
“We are building on not just last year but 20 years, 30 years, the entire history of Bath.
“We want to keep going. From my point of view, it was quite a good time to come in because there has been a lot of change.
“The whole coaching team and backroom staff, there has been a lot of change for the boys to get their head around. A new language, a new tactic, whatever it may be, and they are all buying into that really well. It is an exciting time.
“We are learning how each other think and work, we have spent a lot of time building relationships within the coaching group.
“You need to have that understanding of what we want out of this, and how we can all link up. The structure is really good, we all have our opinion and say and it seems to be working very well.
“It is a great group, a very challenging group and you get challenged on your ideas but that is the way you want it.
“Stuart wants us to have an identity and put some pride into the shirt. He speaks very well and leads very well. He sets clear standards in terms of what is and isn’t acceptable and everyone has had to raise their game to meet those standards.
“We can keep doing that, from a coaching, backroom and playing perspective, we all know what is expected and at the moment it is being delivered.”
Charteris’ playing days were renowned for his brilliance at the set-piece, particularly the lineout.
Poring over tape has long been part of his weekly preparations, but now the challenge is to impart that knowledge to the players rather than store it away for himself.
“I am massively ambitious and want to do as well as I can. I want to do better as a coach than I did as a player to be honest.
“If you are going to do something you want to do it the best you can.
“I am conscious that I am at the bottom at the moment, I have a huge amount of work to do.
“You have to have that understanding, but the thing for me is how you can impart that knowledge onto the other boys, or how you help them to get to those levels and have that understanding themselves.
“It is not just about how I want to do things, it is about the individuals, they work in slightly different ways.
Pre-season 💪 | maximising preparation and performance 🔵⚫⚪ pic.twitter.com/04SkGy861c
— Bath Rugby (@bathrugby) August 16, 2019
“Having a relationship with the boys already, knowing how they operate already is a huge advantage for me.
“I just have to make sure I build on those and help them to push more and more and get to the top of their games.
“The dynamic has changed slightly, but my personality doesn’t. As a player I set high standards but was not a screamer or shouter, and that is not going to change as a coach.”
Bath have welcomed some new faces on the pitch as well this summer – the biggest names joining in the pack.
Former Saracens prop Christian Judge has arrived along with Lewis Boyce from Harlequins in the front row and Josh McNally in the second row, joining from London Irish.
Mike Williams from Leicester Tigers rounds out a fresh front five for Charteris to work with, but ambition burns bright.
“There are new players in the front five, a new young team, especially with the internationals away during the World Cup,” he added.
— Bath Rugby (@bathrugby) August 12, 2019
“So it is exciting times for those guys coming through, they are very keen and receptive and so far I have been very impressed.
“They have all set high standards and added a lot already.
“We have the makings of a very good pack, and hopefully a pack we can keep together for five, six years.
“That is the important thing for us, we are young and we want to keep these guys together and see how we can grow.
“We aim to win the Premiership. That is our goal. We have a team that we think can compete in every competition we are in.
“We were delighted to get that Champions Cup qualification at the end last year, but we don’t want to just get that qualification and then bomb out.
“We have massive goals to get as far as we can in that, to get top four in the Premiership. That is the standard and those are the goals we are setting.”