Mathew Drew Turner.
D.O.B. – 18 January 1988.
Place of Birth – Cape Town, South Africa.
School Attended – Bishops College, Cape Town.
Current Position – Head Coach Sri Lanka Rugby Sevens
The Sri Lankan Rugby Sevens have enjoyed unprecedented success during Matt Turner’s tenure as head coach and he puts it all down to enjoyment. “I spent time playing with Dan Norton (Olympian and England Sevens player) and I knew that if I ever looked to my left and saw him smiling we were going to have a good day,” says Matt, “Dan’s mindset was all about the enjoyment of rugby and having fun.”
South African born Matt made the South African U20 training squad in 2008 however it was when he was selected for the England Sevens team in 2009 that he found his niche. Over the next four years he played in 34 Sevens World Series tournaments, scoring 92 tries, peaking with his nomination for the IRB Sevens Player of the Year award.
Matt found that running with the ball gave him the most enjoyment and he took this mindset into games when he was playing. “My style was all about the attacking game, the running game, the ball in hand,” Matt says, “with the odd tackle or tackle attempt thrown in”. Matt is not the only one trying to balance attack with defence. It has traditionally been a problem with Sri Lankan Rugby Sevens also. “Everybody wants to attack so once we have the ball the most important thing is the ball, not your body or your girlfriend. As long as you have the ball Sevens is fun,” Matt says, “so when we don’t have the ball we must all work for10-12 phases till we get the ball back which is only really a minute.”
He claims Ben Ryan (former England Sevens Coach, Olympic Gold Medal Coach of Fiji) is the man that influenced his coaching philosophy most during his playing days, “Ben coaches like he’s not a school teacher. He never shouts at you and he understands players make mistakes,” Matt says. “He gives you time to fix your mistakes and if you don’t you’ll be watching the team play on T.V.”
Matt uses the mantra ‘Work before Rest’ to summarise the team culture for the squad, where he wants a team first attitude both on and off the field. All Black lock Sam Whitlock calls it ‘front loading’, where players work hard to get into position for the next play then rest once they get there. This culture plays a part in match day preparation where the players are asked to be mentally and emotionally ready once the warm-up has finished. The players must take responsibility for this area but Matt can call on team leaders to have a quiet word if a player is not ‘switched on’.
To grow as a coach Matt feels the areas of improvement for him are the reading of matches and the way his teams’ approach tournaments. “I want to be in situations where I need to make a call to change something to get the result the team deserves,” Matt says, “and the only way to get into those situations is to be part of the team in more tournaments.”
We wish Matt and the team the best of fortune for the upcoming Asian Rugby Sevens Series to be held in Colombo on the 15th and 16th October. They are currently second, behind Hong Kong, and have the opportunity to win the series if they can win in Colombo and Hong Kong are placed outside the top three. Of course we do not want the team to be thinking about winning yet. For now they must concentrate on the task of having fun together while tirelessly training in preparation for the coming tournament. They must continue to improve and remember that, as Matt says, “It’s all about enjoyment and having fun”.