King of England Reigns In Wales

 We sat down with Wales’ newly appointed Attack Coach; Alex King, in the midst of his first Six Nations tournament as a Welsh team representative. His insights were both passionate and impressive….


23.01.23 -Huw Evans Agency

From the moment Alex King received the call from his old Wasps mentor, Warren Gatland, earlier this year, his mission has been simple: to help regalvanise a Wales side short of confidence.

Wales had been coming off the back of losing to Italy and Georgia at home in the same calendar year for the first time ever in 2022. There are however positive signs beginning to show amongst the team, with the likes of Joe Hawkins, Mason Grady, Jac Morgan and Christ Tshiunza coming through the ranks, to name a few.

Alex chuckles now as he discusses his old Wasps mentor from his playing days. We’re in the bar situated at the Vale Hotel, Wales’ training base, surrounded by families clinking coffee mugs as they wind down from a busy Thursday at school and work.

The 48-year-old former fly half insists: “I couldn’t turn down the chance to coach Wales and to work with Gats (Warren Gatland) again, who has literally got his name on the gate outside the ground.”

King joined Gatland, Mike Forshaw and former Wales international Jonathan Thomas as the incoming coaching staff, their task? To ready Wales for the current Six Nations campaign and prepare the side as they move forward into the 2023 World Cup in Paris.

#The former Wasps and Clermont Auvergne fly half was the obvious choice for the attacking coach vacancy left by Stephen Jones, following Wayne Pivac’s dismissal following the poor autumn campaign last year.

King is set to renew his successful relationship with Gatland, having worked under the Kiwi during his successful 11 years at Wasps, which included a Heineken Cup win and English Premiership league titles.

The 5-time capped English international has since excelled as backs and attacking coach in both England, with Northampton Saints and Gloucester, and in France with spells at Clermont Auvergne and Montpellier, having previously also coached Wales’ attack in 2017. He’s not a stranger then to the kinds of pressures he’s now facing.

In what is his second stint as Wales’ attack coach, King will now be tasked with creating some cohesion and consistency within the attacking side of the game.

“It’s a real privilege to be part of the Welsh set up. You understand the passion Wales has for rugby. Whether that is the community game or the international game, the support is incredible,” comments King.

Taking the bus into the city on matchday is an unbelievable life experience. You pinch yourself as you enter Westgate Street and you just see the colour, the noise. You have got the police horses out the front, people piling out of the pubs to get a glimpse of the bus.

“The passion is amazing, there’s definitely butterflies in your stomach. You are aware how close the crowd is, it’s almost gladiatorial.

“We have been getting to know the players and understanding how they work and what their strengths are and how we can best use that.

“There are plenty of talented players and the more I get to know them, the more I will be able to mould my philosophy towards their strengths.”

King has enjoyed a career filled with success and happy memories in the sport he loves. As a player, he spent 11 seasons with Wasps, making 269 appearances, scoring 1,522 points, and winning the Heineken Cup twice.

He also won the English Premiership four times during his time with the team, as well as an Anglo Welsh Cup win and a Challenge Cup trophy, before finishing as runner up in the Top 14 with Clermont Auvergne as a player.

Since hanging up his boots, the former fly-half has also enjoyed success on the coaching side of the game as an attacks coach. First at Clermont, winning the Top 14 in 2010 and then going on to win the Premiership with Northampton in his first year with the midlands club, before enjoying success with Montpellier and more recently Gloucester.

“I’ve been very lucky to work with some brilliant players and coaches across the game. I played with World Cup winners at Wasps; the likes of Lawrence Dallaglio, Simon Shaw and Josh Lucey. We were coached by Gatland, Shaun Edwards and Ian McGeechan, who are all exceptional coaches.

“I’ve worked with Joe Schmidt and Vernon Cotter out in France, who taught me about a different side of the game. The Wasps were more defence minded, but the kiwi coaches in France were very attack orientated. It was interesting to look at the different approaches and try to marry up your own philosophy.

“I’ve been lucky that I have won a number of achievements, but I am still hungry for more success.

“Once you get that cohesion, clarity of message and execution, the game becomes more fluid and simple. We have played two very cohesive teams in Ireland and Scotland who have been together a long time.

“That comes down to making sure our training is up to high standards and making sure when training, the intensity and pressure is replicating the conditions of a test match.

“You need to train in situations that are real to make sure our skills, communication and connection stand up to the scrutiny that you will see on a test match weekend.”

There’s no question that it has been a difficult few months for the Welsh national team, picking up nine losses in 2022. But King is excited about the new crop of youngsters coming through the system and hopes the opportunity to learn from more experienced members of the squad will help guide them in long careers for the team.

It is a difficult balance for the coaches moving forward, who have had little time to settle into their roles before the action began. The national side are in need of some short-term results, but find themselves needing to look to the future, with a World Cup looming on the horizon.

Players like Louis Rees-Zammit, Joe Hawkins, Christ Tshiunza and Dafydd Jenkins will certainly need to gain some international experience in the coming months if they are going to be ready for what’s to come in Paris.

“For a young man, Louis (Rees-Zammit) has already done an incredible amount in the game. He has a huge number of caps for Wales, already being on a British and Irish Lions Tour,” adds King.

“I think he will be the first to say that he hasn’t fulfilled his potential yet. I think he’s still got more in him. He’s an incredible athlete and a great asset to have.

“Rio (Dyer) has had a good start to the season, and Joe Hawkins has been incredible for us in that 12 jersey. For a modern 12, he has a really good skillset. He’s a great person and he’s very coachable.

“It would be good if he can play different positions to learn more about the game, but for now 12 is a great position for him and he is really coming on as a triple threat player.

“It’s invaluable for the younger players to see the experienced players; how they work and they prepare. They are learning so much about the pinnacle of international sport and the potential is similar to that of the 2011 team.”

Those players went on to become what King himself describes as “stalwarts for the next decade”, so if the current team can live up to their potential, we may have something very special on our hands indeed.