After leaving school, Brian started working for Trustee Savings Bank in their international banking division. His old games master from Leigh Grammar, Keith Elleray took him to Tyldesley RUFC, where Brian played fly-half in his first season in 1965/6, before he retired and Brian took over his preferred position of scrum-half for 1966/67.
Although offered professional terms by various Rugby League clubs, Brian moved to Fylde – where his team-mates included Roger Uttley and Bill Beaumont – and then to Orrell from 1973 to be closer to his Leigh home. On finding his chances limited, he started training as a school teacher, where his first post was at Hutton Grammar School, Preston brought about by the head masters requirement to introduce rugby.
Brian never represented England — the closest he came was as an unused bench replacement on 15 March 1975 against Scotland. He played representational rugby for Lancashire, England North, England tourists and the Barbarians.
Brian has coached rugby at club and international level, and has a reputation as one of the best backs coaches in world rugby.
Brian, built his credentials on an expansive approach. In his first spell as Head Coach, led Bath to their last domestic trophy in 1996. As Assistant Coach of Bath, under Jack Rowell, he helped establish Bath as the dominant team in English rugby for a decade to the mid-1990s.
Brian was Sir Clive Woodward’s assistant from 1998 to 2002. Brian was the RFU’s National Academy Manager from 2002 to 2005. In this role Brian played a key part in the launch of England Rugby’s National Academy system since its inception in 2002, creating the Junior and Senior National Academies to develop the most talented players at England A, Sevens, Under 21 and Under 19 level. Brian also coached some of these feeder teams, including England A.
Brian has previously said, “My main strength is as a coach. I see my job as improving players individually, to do the technical work with them, and also to establish the environment, the framework, in which the players operate.” Brian’s philosophy is that the backs comprise three creative forces and four penetrative finishers. On 20 December 2007, Brian was reconfirmed as manager of the English national team by the RFU with an indefinite length contract.
In September 2008 he was appointed director of coaching at the University of Bath and also successfully coached the Oxford University Blues team to Twickenham success in the 2008 Varsity match.
He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire in the 2008 New Year Honours.