How do you approach the new season when you’re playing in a different league? That’s the question Macclesfield Rugby put to Head Coach and Director of Rugby, Geoff Wappett, when we caught up with him recently. The answer apparently is simple enough – you carry on doing what you were doing last season, but you do it better and you do it more consistently. Just because you’re playing at a seemingly lower level doesn’t mean your standards have to be compromised. That’s the message Geoff is giving to the boys ahead of the new season. Here’s what Geoff had to say.
What are your expectations for the coming season? Will Macclesfield Blues be doing anything different now they’re playing in National 2, or is it just a case of picking up where they left off?
“Essentially we’re looking to win games. I know that probably sounds obvious, but that’s what we’re about next season, and that’s what we’ll be concentrating on. So that’s our objective and our approach to that will be vital. We have to keep up the pace and intensity of National 1 rugby and apply that at all times. We’ve learned to play at that level and we’ve got the players with the experience of playing at that higher level. So it’s important to apply what we’ve learned. The very last thing we need to do is let our standards slip and play at the opposition’s pace. It’s all-to-easily done, so it’s something I’ll be on the lookout for.”
Are expectations high?
“Well, yes there are high expectations, but it’s important to bear in mind that just because we’ve dropped down a league doesn’t mean we’ll be nailed-on contenders for promotion. The likes of Darlington Mowden Park have been splashing the cash and are very upbeat and optimistic about their prospects. Similarly Stourbridge will also fancy their chances, having nearly got promotion at the first time of asking. So make no mistakes: this will be a tough competitive league and to win promotion you’ll have to earn it.”
“The picture’s not as simple or convenient as some people paint it. Yes we may have been playing at a higher level and should therefore have the players and the experience to make us an obvious candidate for promotion, but nobody can or should take promotion for granted. But, having said that, we’ve got a lively and talented squad, and if we can remain injury-free then I’m quite confident that we can have a successful season.”
Are Macclesfield Blues’ preparations any different now they’re playing in National 2?
“No, they’re the same as always. What we have to do is play the type of game we’re comfortable with. If we take our National 1 form into National 2 I’m pretty confident we can be up there towards the top, but we have to be a lot more hard-nosed when it comes to scoring points. Last season’s biggest disappointment was our lack of bonus points. We’ve been consistently good at scoring tries, but for one reason or another we just couldn’t find the line often enough last season. We have to rediscover our form, get the right sort of field position, exert the pressure and turn that pressure into tries. What’s more, we have to do this consistently; week in week out. There’s no room for being casual: we have to be hard-nosed and clinical: whenever there’s an opportunity we have to take it.”
How are pre-season preparations going so far?
“Preparations are going well. We’ve almost reached the end of our first month and things are coming together nicely. You rarely have all the players together at the same time; what with holidays and work commitments, so that can be frustrating, but in spite of that the determination and work ethic of the boys is exceptional.”