If I had to describe 2020 for many rugby clubs it would be the rollercoaster year and thus it was for Rugby Saint Andrews. The downs were the imposition of no training, no social contact, no matches. The ups were the re-introduction of training, (however limited) and the meeting (however distanced) with old friends and making new ones as youngsters from the previous year’s under sixteen squad made the transition to colts rugby and began to train alongside their senior colleagues.
This change to training routine meant that all players were introduced to new Head Coach Tom Muat’s ideas of how we would structure our play and players and coaches soon had 1-3-3-1 engraved on our hearts! Back rows became comfortable in their new home out wide in the fifteen metre channel; No 8’s, props and locks got used to the idea of taking the ball into contact and retaining possession ready for another charge by the another pod at some unsuspecting flyhalf! When that was ingrained, the development of options from that came into view, with the ball being shipped behind the pods to fly half and sent through the three quarters with the hovering flanker (they hadn’t been forgotten) providing an extra player to create overlap opportunities. Then the possibility of exploiting the full-back and the other ubiquitous flanker with the blind side winger on the other side of the field provided another move.
With these basic moves established time was devoted to developing the individual, and small unit skills that needed to be perfected if the moves were to work as intended. Players were divided into small groups and directed to various parts of the training paddock where coaches drilled them in the intricacies of 2 v. 1 and 3v.2 (and even on occasion 4 v. 3!). Although there was no opportunity to work on scrummaging and very little to develop mauls and rucking skills, there was some chance to look at the progression of lineouts. Very often the session culminated in a practice match, mixing different ages together where all had the opportunity to use the structure and the individual skills in what we all hoped with different degrees of confidence at different times during the year would be the way we would play in ‘real’ rugby games.
That this programme went as far as it did and could is due to the work that Tom and his fellow coaches put into the preparation of the sessions and the enthusiasm they brought to them. Without ‘Billy’ Butlin, Scott Marshall, Steve Kettleborough, Dean Smith, Carl Roderick, Mark (Huggy) Hughes.
As well as their enthusiasm the numbers of players who attended was a reward for them and especially for the players themselves. When nearly sixty people were prepared to attend training sessions although there was no definite date when fixtures would resume there had to be something good and positive in the air. This positive attitude could be seen in the way that players led the warm up sessions and involved themselves in developing the skills for those coming to senior sessions for the first time, and in the touch tournament that they initiated and organised.