IT RAINED SO HARD WE HAD TO SPRINT FOR THE STANDS!
IN THE 35 years I have been involved in rugby as a player or a coach, I have never experienced conditions as bad as last week at Henley.
It was of biblical proportions. Bits of trees were breaking off and banners were flying across the pitch.
The ref had to take the players off the pitch for 10 minutes and we all had to run for shelter in the dugouts.
There was a lot of talk at the interval over whether the game should be abandoned. The match has to run for at least 60 minutes for the result to stand and the Henley management were obviously asking questions.
They were in a position where they were a number of points down and in weather like that scoring opportunities would be few and far between.
But the pitch was playable, it was just a case of how long the storm would last and it was such an important game for both teams.
The referee wanted to wait and was patient, which was great for us. It would have been really disappointing if it was called off and the result hadn’t stood.
But it was so surreal when the game was brought to a halt because with all the weather around us, Peter Bell, our president, took the opportunity to give an impromptu speech to the players – it certainly did the trick.
While they were really difficult conditions to cope with we started well and had a good platform at the scrum and lineout, especially early on.
It got a bit messier as the game went on because of the conditions. But I was really pleased with the way the players adapted and coped with the elements.
We’ve really improved up front and as coaches and senior players we really analysed Henley and put that in place.
We understood exactly how we wanted to play and knew the weather could have a big impact.
We had a clear and simple game-plan and the boys implemented it expertly and tackled their hearts out in defence.
Looking at the league positions and points it was absolutely vital that we won and even more pleasing was the fact it was away from home.
In our last three games we’ve picked up wins at Hull Ionians and Henley and a point at Doncaster. Nine points is a brilliant return, especially when you consider we took no points previously on the road.
It bodes well for the future and will build confidence and we have more home games than away left this season.
By the time we play on Saturday it will be six weeks since we have been at home and we’re really looking forward to getting back against Blaydon.
TIME FOR ENGLAND TO GET BACK TO WINNING WAYS
THE talking point among all rugby supporters this week is the Six Nations and I for one can’t wait.
It’s a fantastic, traditional tournament and the envy of the rugby world in terms of the people and passion. Droves of supporters will travel away for the games and stop in Dublin, Edinburgh, Rome, Paris or Cardiff for what I know will be a great weekend. There is just so much theatre in the Championship. It’s built upon historic rivalries, has an old school element and everyone really gets behind their country.
There’s a lot of talk about how strong Wales will be but every Six Nations title post Lions in the professional era has gone to France.
Wales produced the majority of players for the Lions and are in good shape but whether they can reproduce that form yet again remains to be seen.
I’m obviously very patriotic and want England to do well and even more so the Gloucester players. I always think England should be the favourites for the competition, just because of the resources and player pool available and I do believe they have a good chance but it’s wide open.
One thing I would say is the World Cup is just around the corner and the last time we won it we were already winning the Six Nations and beating southern hemisphere teams.
They have to get on a roll now, the development stage has to come to an end and they have to start winning.
There are a few injury problems as there always are and Alex Corbisiero will be a huge loss but we still have a strong pack.
Dylan Hartley is the real deal and has that edge. With guys like Dan Cole and Courtney Lawes around him England should be able to impose themselves on games and provide a solid platform for the backs to play off.
JACK EARNED HIS CALL-UP TO ENGLAND COUNTIES SQUAD
MOST of the clubs at this level will lose one or two players to the England Counties team and our congratulations go to Cinderford’s Jack Adams.
It’s a great honour for both him and the club and something I’m all for.
Any French team will be tough at home and Counties will have plumped for Jack because he has so much experience.
Hopefully Jack can get his head down, give his all and put in a good performance.
COME ON LONGLEVENS!
ELSEWHERE on the club scene Longlevens take on Liskeard Looe in the South West Counties Final on Saturday and they are now just two games from Twickenham.
It’s already a fantastic achievement and it will be a new experience for a lot of their players – waking up in a hotel and going to play a big knockout game of rugby.
They will have an army of supporters making the long trip down to Cornwall but Liskeard will be tough opponents.
They’re leading their league by a country mile but you never quite know what to expect from teams in different regions because the standards can be quite different.
Having said that though, Cornwall is a thriving rugby area and I’m sure they will be very strong.
But regardless of the result it will be a brilliant experience and something they can build upon in the remainder of their league season.