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Crane reflects on coaching transition after successful U18 campaign

Jordan Crane is enjoying his start to life as transition coach of the Bears Academy U18s, following a successful first season at the helm alongside the final season of his playing career.

The experienced number eight, who joined Bristol Bears from Leicester Tigers in 2016, began his transition into coaching ahead of the 2019/20 Academy U18 League campaign - and the 33-year-old has made a huge impact in his first season in the role.

“To begin with, it was different. I have been coaching over the last couple of years, but to go to that level was challenging for me – certain pictures you see at a professional level don’t necessarily translate to the age groups,” he said.

“We changed stuff mid-season and, on the hoof, and the lads had to pick it up, and that’s credit to them.”

With three wins in the pool stages – over Bath, Harlequins and Exeter Chiefs – the U18s reached Finals Day at Sixways for the first time, where a last-gasp converted try for Newcastle Falcons saw them slip to a 35-34 defeat.

And although satisfied with the progress made, Crane insists there remains plenty of room for growth and improvement.

He added: “It was nice to have a successful season, but when we look back at it, we missed a few opportunities to do even better.

“I think we tried to change the mindset of the Academy, from where they have been since the Academy League has been going – part of that was to tighten up the defence straight away.

“There’s still some work to go – you see a lot of Academy games where the score is six tries to five; whoever scores the most tries, wins. We don’t want to be that team anymore, that doesn’t set us up for professional rugby, that’s not what it’s like at the top level.

“So, what we’re trying to do is turn the age group into a high performance stepping stone, so the guys who make it to the first team are ready and know what it takes. So, if we can upskill the whole group to be at that level, it makes us more successful.

“There’s a lot of hard work being done throughout the pathway and we’re making a lot of progress across the board.”