Cornwall relish Gloucestershire challenge

Cornish Pirates Awards Cornwall Kit Launch 050515
Skipper Kyle Marriott wears Cornwall’s new shirt for 2015

By Bill Hooper TASC Press Officer at the Recreation Ground

Photos Simon Bryant Iktis photo

The Cornwall squad assembled at Redruth RFC on Tuesday evening for the first of two training sessions this week, the second will be held at Bodmin RFC on Thursday evening.

The squad and coaches were in buoyant mood following their Tamar Cup win against Devon the previous Tuesday.

I caught up with both coaches Ian Morgan and Graham Dawe prior to the training session.

Looking back on the Devon game, I asked Morgan what lessons they had learned. He said,”Mainly organisation, we were fairly unorganised going into the game and I think at times the game showed that, having picked the squad for this Saturday we will now focus on getting that right.

“We gave some of the youngsters a run out at Brickfields and they put their hands up for the shirt this Saturday and that’s been reflected in the selection. Some of the more established players realised that they are going to have to fight for their place.”

Morgan was especially pleased with the half-back combination: “I was really pleased by the way Matt Shepherd and Lewis Webb combined last Tuesday. Shepherd is similar to Greg Goodfellow and offers a threat around the fringes. His service to Webb was great off both hands with Webby controlling the game well. Jake Murphy and Nielson Webber in the midfield proved a potent combination, so we have kept that four together for Saturday.”

Morgan was also full of enthusiasm about young Billy Searle who came on during the second half at Brickfields and has been rewarded with a starting berth at full back against Gloucestershire: “He really impressed when he came on in the Tamar Cup, so we put him at full-back with Robin Wedlake, another who had a fine game last Tuesday and the experienced Steve Johns on the wings.”

Morgan says this side will have no fear about facing Gloucestershire up at Cinderford: “These youngsters take it all in their stride, they know that Gloucestershire will come full on but they have no fear. Billy knows what’s coming his way and I have every confidence that he will more than deal with it.”

Graham Dawe was also pleased with the preparations this far and satisfied with the Tamar Cup result: “We gave debuts to a few players and they showed up well, now it’s another big step up to play Gloucestershire. Players now have got to set the tone in training tonight that they want to go up there and knock Gloucestershire over.

“We looked to put patterns in play and to dictate where we wanted to play on the pitch and give the boys some direction, if you can do that then that gives you a chance to win. Championship rugby is pressurised rugby: you have to minimize your mistakes and play in the right areas.”

Dawe, like Morgan, was very enthusiastic about some of the younger players who are now breaking into the squad: “There are some exciting young prospects, players like Tommy Phillips and Christian Judge at prop, both will start from the bench this Saturday, both will have to play some rugby as they come on and off via the rolling subs. Set-piece rugby is what it’s all about they are great lads to work with they want to improve they want to get better and they want to be successful as rugby players.”

Corwall County Championship Squad 26/02/14
Photo – Cornwall’s coaching duo of Dawe & Morgan

Dawe had no qualms about fielding the youngsters in his back three: “Losing Kieron Lewitt was a big blow but that now gives the chance to Billy Searle. He is a talented player, he can pass the ball off both hands, reads the game well and kicks well, so he has got a lot of tools to his game.

“Likewise winger Robin Wedlake, he has got good pace and looks assured. It will be a big step up for him facing Gloucestershire and the hostile crowd under a high ball, but I think he has the confidence.

Just like Morgan, Dawe is excited with Matt Shepherd coming in at scrum-half: “Again, losing Greg Goodfellow was a big blow. He’s a big match player and an experienced player, but Matt now has the chance to make a name for himself, having stepped up this season playing at Launceston. We shall see how he performs against a side with a lot of National League 1 players.”

Dawe felt that players’ fitness was an issue last season and he challenged players to go away and work on their fitness: “We asked the question and most of the players nodded in approval. We have asked them to up their fitness. Time will tell whether they have taken that message on board. It’s a slow process. Fitness is something that has to be driven from within. If you don’t challenge yourself, you can’t change anything, you just end up being the same player season on season.”

I also caught up with Matt Shepherd and asked him how pleased he was with his Tamar Cup performance: “I was really pleased with last Tuesday. I really wanted to impress before the County Championship. I got the chance with Greg getting his red card and knew I had to grasp it. I was pleased with my tries and to cap it with the man-of-the-match award.

“I think Webby and I struck up a good partnership and our performance at half back helped dictate Cornwall’s performance, both of us can interchange as and when which is a plus.

“Gloucestershire away is always hard. Last time we were up there we managed to get a win. The Cinderford pitch is wide and exposed, so it’s never a nice place to go but we will bind well as a group and go there to get the result.”

Finally I spoke to Saltash’s Max Veneables, for many a surprise choice, and asked him how he enjoyed his Tamar Cup experience. He said, “I really enjoyed it and was just glad to be out there and to have the chance to play. The call came a bit quicker than I expected but I had no complaints.

“It’s on the back of a couple of great seasons at Saltash which has seen the club rise up to Western Counties West next season. There is a good core of lads who have been there for five or six seasons now and we have grown together as a team. The colts are also going well so the club is very much on the up.

“I wasn’t too concerned about the pace of the game last Tuesday, it was a bit quicker but I just had to concentrate on what I needed to do and not make any errors. Hopefully my performance will be good enough to be involved up at Cinderford, but whatever happens I am just happy being down here and involved with the squad.”

Veneables is named amongst the replacements for Saturday’s game against Gloucestershire.

Teams:

Gloucestershire (Cinderford unless stated): C Jackson (Hartpury Coll), L Fielding, S Hanks, S Rodwell (London Irish Ams), S Hawley, M Wilcox, A Frame; M Flook (Hartpury Coll), S Wilkes, T Brockett (Hartpury Coll), C Daniell (Lydney), E King, T MacDonald (Hartpury Coll), L Molitika (Coventry), G Evans, Capt

Replacements: C Bundy, J Smart, J Lloyd, Mike Uren (both Dings Crusaders), M Brown, S Arnott (Lydney), N Codlin (Coney Hill).

Cornwall: B Searle (Cornish All Blacks), S Johns (Birmingham & Solihull), J Murphy (Cornish All Blacks), N Webber, R Wedlake (both Redruth), L Webb (Taunton), M Shepherd (Cornish All Blacks); R Freestone (Clifton), R Brown, C Williams, D Cook (all Redruth), B Hilton (Cornish All Blacks), C Fuca (Redruth), G Jones (Penryn), K Marriott (Redruth, capt).

Replacements: J Salter (Cornish All Blacks), T Phillips (Redruth), C Judge, BJ Chapman (both Cornish All Blacks), J Goldsworthy, (Camborne), R Friend (Cornish All Blacks), M Veneables (Saltash)

Posted in Bill's Blog

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