David Ellis

France France

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    David Ellis
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David Ellis Bio

David Ellis Life and Career Highlights.

Today, David Ellis is a highly-respected rugby coach that’s made a name for himself while working with some of the best teams in England and France.

Unlike many rugby professionals who first got recognized while still young, it didn’t quite play out like this for Ellis. And this was despite him being more destined for it than most. Indeed, if we trace David Ellis’s bloodline back just a few generations, we arrive at a name that’s practically synonymous with rugby folklore: William Webb Ellis.

For the uninitiated, William Webb Ellis is, in some circles, credited with inventing the game of rugby itself. The rumor goes that, while playing for Rugby School (one of the oldest independent schools in Britain), William Webb Ellis carried the ball forwards during a game, charging headfirst into the opposing players. This move, at the time, was outside of the rules of the football game they were playing.

Of course, while there’s no contesting the bloodline that links these two Ellis men, the rugby origin myth is, according to most, just that—a myth. But that doesn’t discount that David Ellis arrived in the world with close links to the game. He even came with close ties to the south of France — the final resting of the infamous William Webb Ellis.

It All Started in the Coal Mines.

As for David, his story begins in the underground coal mines in the north of England, where he started working at the age of 16. However, in 1984, when miners went on strike against Thatcher-era austerity reforms, Ellis found himself without a job and very few prospects.

Fortunately, Ellis, now in his late twenties and with a young family in tow, had developed a considerable talent for rugby. This talent provided him something of a lifeline, and, before long, he was off to Australia to take up his first professional contract.

In the years that followed, Ellis would play hundreds of games across Queensland and New South Wales — the heartlands of Australian rugby. Here he would play for teams like Townsville, Brisbane, and Toowoomba, before he eventually headed back closer to home to take up a spot with Corbeil XIII in France.

By the mid-nineties, as with all rugby playing careers, David’s playing days were slowly coming to an end. However, he wasn’t done with rugby, and made the rather natural leap to becoming a coach in 1996.

Ellis’s first coaching position came with Villeneuve-sur-Lot rugby league team. Here he would spend three years coaching the club, and would see it reach the finals in each of these years, including a championship victory in his first year.

As successful as David’s time at Villeneuve-sur-Lot was, however, his days eventually came to an end there when, in 1998, he jumped ships to the historic Racing Club de France. This move saw Ellis following the great Jaques Fourroux, with whom he had participated in the formation of the Paris Saint-Germain Rugby League.

Over the next few years, David would spend two with the Racing Club de France before again making a move to spend another two at Bordeaux Begles. However, while these were notable steps along Ellis’s career, they were not the biggest of this period.

Wedged right in the middle of this time, in the year 2000, David got a chance to join Bernard Laporte and the French national team after Fouroux recommended him as defensive coach. This was a role he would hold until 2011 for a total of eleven seasons, three of which (2002, 2004, and 2010) were undefeated “grand slams” for the team.

Of course, while working with the French national team was the highlight of David’s coaching at the time, his bread and butter still remained in the club world. This had him also working with Gloucester back in England (2001-2005), Castres Olympique (2005-2008), Brive (2008-2009), and London Irish in the English Championships.

As Ellis’s time with the French national team came to an end, however, he was still not done with juggling multiple roles. In 2012, he started working with both US Bergerac and Lyon Olympique Universitaire (LOU), helping both teams gain promotion to Fédérale 1 and Top 14, respectively. As if juggling this wasn’t enough, Ellis also took on a role coaching the Tongan national team during this period.

As the 2010s wore on, David eventually started lightening the hectic work schedule he’d made for himself and, after finishing up with LOU in 2017, returned briefly to Villeneuve-sur-Lot, where his coaching career had begun. This, unfortunately, came to an abrupt and messy end after only six months, after disagreements between Ellis and the club failed to be resolved.

But even though he was winding down, this wasn’t the end for Ellis, and he soon found himself drawn back to coaching after reading about an ambitious Fédérale 2 club, Sarlat Rugby, who was planning an assault on the higher ranks of the sport. Before long, he was defensive coach once more, working alongside head coach Stéphane Labrousse.


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