Premiership experience added to Chichester coaching team

Chris Johnson is the new Chichester first XV captain / Picture by Kate Shemilt
Chris Johnson is the new Chichester first XV captain / Picture by Kate Shemilt

CHICHESTER RFC’S bid for success in their second season in the National League will be led by a coaching trio of ex-pros.

Joining head coach Rob Lawrence at the helm will be two Blues players who have each been promoted to assistant player coach – Danny Gray and Ken Dowding.

It is part of an attempt to put in place a structure that will serve the club well for years to come by attracting and retaining good-quality players.

Lawrence is excited to be joined on the coaching side by Gray and Dowding, who each have ten years behind them in the professional game.

Gray is in his second spell at Chichester and in between played for Worcester, Exeter, Bristol and Bath while Dowding, currently prop for the Army, has had spells at Swansea, Bath and Ospreys and last season appeared for London Irish while on dual registration with the Blues.

Lawrence thanked the coaches who had worked with him last season but who were now moving on and said he was looking forward to working with the new duo. Gray will have special responsibility for the backs, Dowding for the forwards.

“Between them they bring so much experience and knowledge of the game and how it should be played. Both will still be key players in the squad but their work on the coaching side will be a huge asset to us,” Lawrence said.

“It’s all in line with us trying to build enjoyment, harmony and brotherhood – do something more lasting this season that will stand the club in good stead in the long-term.

“There aren’t too many clubs around who have three ex-pros on the coaching staff. It will help us build an environment that breeds stability and success.

“We won’t be motivated by where we finish in the league but good performances and results will come from the set-up we are putting in place.”

Chichester finished seventh in the 14-team National three London south east last year – a respectable placing, but they slipped after sitting second early in 2015.

They have recruited winger Jack Maslen from Worthing – a player with sevens experience at Harlequins – and expect to sign two or three other new players soon.

Lawrence has also been pleased to see former 
colts and second XV players put themselves up as players who will be 
pushing for a first-XV chance.

Powerhouse back-row forward Chris Johnson will be captain, while club stalwart Nick Shopland is the new chairman of senior rugby at Oaklands Park.

The league season will kick off for Chichester at home to Tonbridge Juddians on Saturday, September 5, before they go to Guernsey on September 12.

Lawrence said: “There’s lots going on with the new clubhouse and gymnasium that will link in with the first XV plus a new-look committee who have been very supportive. There are good times ahead and we’re excited for the season.”

Pre-season friendlies will be played versus Sutton & Epsom and Bournemouth – full details to follow in the Observer – while training now takes place at the club every Tuesday and Thursday from 6.30pm.


Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.

Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.

1 Make this website your homepage

2 Like our Facebook page at

3 Follow us on Twitter @SportSussex

4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.

And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!