Can you ever judge how a season will pan out on the basis of two halves of rugby against higher level teams? Well, not in the opinion of Head Coach and Director of Rugby, Geoff Wappett. The narrow defeats against Loughborough Students and the crushing loss to Rotherham should not be taken as any sort of indicator of how Macclesfield Blues will fare in the coming months. Friendlies, however competitive, are not a yardstick. What matters are competitive games, and we’ll only see the real Macclesfield Blues when the season kicks off next week but one against Darlington Mowden. In the meantime you take what you can form each game, learn from it and then move on. So is Geoff over the weekend’s disappointment? Well, you be the judge. Here’s what he had to say when he spoke to Macclesfield Rugby this week.
Were you disappointed or simply philosophical about the results of last weekend’s double header?
“It’s was a disappointment, yes, but it wasn’t really totally unexpected. When you set up a weekend like that there are always likely to be difficulties: you don’t know who’s going to be away on holiday and you have no idea how many injuries you’re going to have. What that means is you’ve no idea what sort of team you’re going to be able to put out. So, what I’m trying to say is that though the results may have been disappointing, the team selection wasn’t indicative of what we’re likely to start with in the league or how we’re likely to play. Having said that, I think we played pretty well against Loughborough. It was only when we went down to 14 men after Mike Barlow’s yellow card that Loughborough started to come back at us. They play quick rugby anyway, so trying to defend against that with only 14 men is difficult.”
“Rotherham were just too powerful for us – it’s as simple as that. We played a lot of what you might call second string players, but we hadn’t really got any choice in the matter. What it clearly demonstrated is the gulf between full time rugby players and part timers. Rotherham were big and powerful and had a physicality that we just couldn’t match. The result should be seen in perspective, and that’s that Rotherham are one of the top 20 teams in the country. I suppose in hindsight you could say it wasn’t the ideal fixture for us, but hindsight’s not particularly helpful. We chose to play the games and we came off second best. That’s all there is to it.”
What can you take out of the games despite the results?
“Well, there are things we can learn from. The Loughborough game was a good challenge and gave the Blues the type of confidence they’ll need going into the new campaign. The Rotherham game – well, you just have to put your hands up and say there we are. Having said that, it should serve as a bench mark for those boys who have aspirations to play at a higher level: it shows them how much they’ll need to improve to compete with the better teams.”
“The biggest consolation we can take from the games is that we came out of them without further injuries. We can take a certain amount of information from the two games, though I must stress again that the results are no indicator of how we’ll fare in the season to come. What matters are league points, and that’s where our concentration and efforts are focused.”
“This week’s friendly against Rossendale should provide a much better indicator of where we stand. Tom Eaton’s back from holiday so we’ll have someone to manage the game more effectively. We did have plans to try several players at 10, but unfortunately it didn’t work out. Tom Davenport finished up with a hamstring injury, Ashley Platt did his ankle against Burnage and Josh Hodgkinson damaged his shoulder, so the plans were thrown into disarray. So we were forced to play Henry Ravenscroft at 10. He’s a full back really, but accredited himself well in the circumstances. Overall it was a hard day at the office.”
Any other news ahead of the season’s opener?
“Well, I’m glad to say there is. We’ll be joined in October by Francois Bester, a young tight head prop from Rotherham. He’s been out in South Africa with the Cheetahs – the Orange Free State. He’ll be with us from the start of the month and will be a big asset. He’s very aggressive and has played with Munster Under 19s. He went over to Rotherham when his Dad went to coach there. He’s a fitness fanatic and comes with a fantastic pedigree when you consider his Dad and his Uncle were both Springbok front rowers.”
“We’ll also be joined by a lad called Chas Ianson. He’ll be with us from next week. He’s come from a rugby league background, having played for a couple of years at Hull and latterly part-time at Swinton. He’s just started his teaching career and wants to turn to rugby union. He’s a half back, but I feel he could play at either 10 or 12. I’m really looking forward to Chas joining us next week.”