Whoever wrote this season’s script deserves a big pat on the back. Macclesfield Rugby supporters wanted to get the season off to a flying start, and the team have delivered that with a flourish – 2 games – 2 wins and 2 bonus points to boot. Is everything going according to plan according to Head Coach and Director of Rugby, Geoff Wappett? Of course it is. Is there any room for improvement? Naturally – there always is. Any team is only as good as their last game. The very best teams improve with each and every game, and that is what Geoff is expecting from Macclesfield Blues. Complacency is the enemy of success and must be avoided at all costs. Here Geoff talks to Macclesfield Rugby about back play, scrummaging, forward play and forward planning.
Two games – two wins: things seem to be going well wouldn’t you say?
“We’ve had a really good start to the season – two wins and two bonus points. I couldn’t ask for more. What I’ve been most pleased about is the way we’ve played, and the way we’ve taken the initiative in matches. There were times at the weekend when we played some super stuff: great close quarter play, great support play, good passing and particularly good offloads. Our set piece went well too.”
“If there’s one area where we didn’t quite play as well as I would have wanted it was in our back play. When we played the ball wide our passing was a little disappointing. Once we’d managed to open Sheffield up, we made a number of errors. It’s not a big problem, but none the less it’s something we’re going to have to address over the coming days and weeks. I’m not overly concerned because I know our backs are more than capable – they’ve shown that clearly before. What we will do is work on our passing and handling so that when we create opportunities over the coming weeks we capitalise on these.”
“Having said that I think we need to get some sense of perspective here. Yes there were one or two minor errors, but overall we played really well. If we put our game together as I know we can and maintain our focus for a concentrated period, then some team is going to be on the end of a heavy defeat. I’m not just saying that either. We look really impressive, and if we play to our potential and keep our concentration, then we could prove to be a real handful. We are a pretty good side at the moment, but with work and dedication we have the potential to be a really good side, and that’s what I’m after.”
How have the side coped with the new scrum laws?
“We’re coping without any problem as far as I can see. I always thought we would as the changes have made the scrummage more technical, and I knew that would suit our game. We’ve got good scrummagers and we’ve got hookers who are more than capable of striking for the ball, so the new laws hold no fears for us. Previously sides who struggled at the scrum could always feed the ball to overcome any shortcomings, but these new laws ‘should’ make feeding a thing of the past. Now there’s no outlet: if you can’t scrummage you’re going to be exposed. We’ve already got a good front row and scrum and that can only get better when Francois Bester joins us in a couple of weeks. That addition will give us strength in depth. So the new laws hold no fear for us. I just hope the referees keep interpreting these new rules consistently.”
What are you expecting from Hull when they come to Priory Park next weekend?
“I think Hull were unfortunate to lose in week 1. They were competing well from what I gather and were giving as good as they got without necessarily getting ahead. Luctonians scored in the later stages of the game, but Hull still managed to secure a couple of points. Things didn’t go too well against Darlington. They obviously got some ball to play with, and that can be problematic. They’ve got some handy backs who can play given the opportunity. We managed to keep the ball away from their backs, but Hull weren’t quite so clinical.”
“The score against Darlington would suggest to me that Hull aren’t quite as strong in the forwards as they would like to be. Having said that the scores they got against Luctonians were all gained from driving line outs. I’ve known Chris Murphy since he was about 16 and coached him with England Schools and the Under 21s. He’s still playing now as his brother Phil, so Hull certainly aren’t lacking experience: Phil played Premiership rugby with Worcester and Leeds and Chris played with Sale and Leeds. The only problem they might have is that they probably don’t have the stamina they once had. Everyone loses that as they get older. So what we need to be is make sure we’re ready to defend the driving maul, make sure we don’t concede easy midfield penalties that they can kick to touch to set up such set piece moves, and keep the ball moving and really test their fitness.”
“We’ve had a good start and Hull will no doubt be disappointed with their results. No doubt they’ll pick themselves up and want to prove a point. They’ll try to dominate the set piece and it’s our job to ensure that doesn’t happen. I think it’s always good if there are things to be wary of. It keeps you on your toes and gives you something to focus on. The biggest threat to any team is complacency, and I can assure you that the Blues will not be complacent.”