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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

‘Poppy Cleall challenges me – you always have to be sharp’: Juan Figallo on life as Saracens Women forwards coach

Former Argentina prop Juan Figallo is finding pleasure in the transition from player to coach at Saracens – even though his methods and training drills come under some serious examination from members of the women’s squad including England star Poppy Cleall.

Once a mainstay of a hugely successful Sarries side, the former tighthead was forced into an early retirement last year. But Figallo has found a new calling, marshalling an immensely talented Saracens Women pack that is determined to wrestle back their Premier 15s title after losing to bitter rivals Harlequins in the final last season. Saracens have made a flying start to the campaign, securing five bonus-point wins from five matches.

He might only be four months into his new role, but the curiosity and rugby intelligence shown by the Saracens squad has captivated Figallo.

“There are a lot of ‘why’s’,” he tells Telegraph Sport when discussing his training sessions. “With boys they just do it, with the girls you have to explain the reason why. In a way that is good because they actually understand exactly what the point of the training is and what we want to achieve.

“It helps them to become better players. But sometimes it is hard in the middle of the drill!

“Poppy Cleall can be quite challenging – well she challenges me as a coach so you always have to be sharp. The players know a lot about rugby, probably more than the professional men players and it is quite fascinating to see that.” The majority of Figallo’s time is spent with the women as forwards coach, under head coach Alex Austerberry, but he also works with the academy and first team, passing on the type of tips only a gnarled ex-prop can.

A renowned scrummager in his day, Figallo says he could “discuss scrums for hours”, explaining that there has been a “lack of detail” in women’s set-piece coaching. No longer, with Figallo taking pride in elevating Saracens’ scrum to a new level.

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