Claire Cruikshank, who has been central to the renewal of Sweden’s international XVs programme, has resigned as coach of the national team.
Claire (front row, left) with the Swedish team.
Claire Cruikshank has been Sweden’s head coach since September 2019, and has lead the rebirth of international XVs rugby in the nation that was one of the birthplaces of the game.
Sweden was the third nation to play test rugby, playing their first test in 1984, and last reached the finals of the World Cup in 2010. However, the decade since proved to be a difficult one with Sweden (for a variety of reasons, but mainly financial) withdrawing from the fifteen aside game at international level after 2014, playing just one test match in the next five years.
With Tammy Taylor as her assistant, Cruikshank built a new squad of nearly 50 players from the ground up, with two thirds of new selections new to the squad only five weeks before Sweden returned to competitive rugby at the 2019 European Trophy, where they narrowly missed out on the title. Since then under her leadership they have not lost a match and in 2022 were promoted to European Championship after winning the Trophy at their second attempt.
Cruikshank also took over the coaching of the Swedish sevens team this year, integrating the XVs and Sevens squads together and winning promotion at the first attempt. With the support of Sweden she was also selected as Scotland’s intern coach at the World Cup in New Zealand.
The reason given for Cruikshank’s departure is “that her vision and ambition for the national squad are not matched by the resources provided by the Swedish Rugby Union”, which suggests that - as of old - Sweden’s ambitions on the field may be limited by their financial limitations off it.
But it is unlikely that Sweden will be alone in facing this sort of challenge. WXV provides a realistic goal that several unions in Europe, and beyond, have the ability to reach, but which will stretch the resources of many unions and players to the limit in achieving it.
Jonas Toresäter, manager of Sweden’s XVs and sevens teams is sorry to see Cruikshank leave. "It has been a privilege for all of us, players and management, to work together with Claire. We have clearly enjoyed high quality coaching and there has been a transfomation within the squad, with the players now having another understanding of, and expectation on, being involved in a national squad. This will be Claire's legacy to Sweden women's rugby."
Sweden's first match in the European Championship is against the Netherlands on 12th February.
Tamara Taylor has been appointed replacement head coach. This is received very positively by the players and is a great relief, with the Championship games less than two months away and a warm up game against British Army already on January 6.
“I am really pleased to be able to continue to work with the Sweden team", she said. "They're a great group of players, with a lot of talent, who I have enjoyed working with, alongside Claire, since 2019. We have a tough competition coming up, and I am looking forward to continuing to build on the foundations that have been laid over the past few years, and see how far Sweden can go.”