London Scottish captain Gary Trueman says that the team are eager to get back into action after a six-week period in which the weather, fixture clashes and the festive season have limited the club to just two competitive fixtures – and both of those on the same afternoon.
Saturday’s visit to Manchester in the fourth round of the EDF National Trophy will be the club’s first match since wins against Basingstoke in the same competition and Henley in the league on the Saturday before Christmas.
Trueman said, “a break over Christmas is good for everyone, it’s a good time to recoup, but I think missing two games has been a touch too much for us, you need to get playing, you need to get back. We’re training very, very well, but the difference between training and games is very big”.
The captain acknowledged that as a cup tie there was perhaps a margin of error that wouldn’t exist in a league match, but added that the fixture offered a great opportunity for the club to benchmark its progress and raise its profile.
“A lot of boys in the camp, myself included, we want to see where we’re at. We know we can play good rugby, we’re playing a first division team, and I think it’s a great opportunity for us and the club to put ourselves out there and get London Scottish back on everyone’s lips again in terms of top flight rugby”.
Trueman added, “it’s a huge game and one that I think the whole club is looking forward to, and we’ll be there on Saturday looking to do a job on them – we can go up there expecting to run them close and win the game and that’s how we’ll prepare”.
Looking at the bigger picture, Trueman says that the season so far has gone entirely according to plan.
“We haven’t lost a game yet, we’re pretty much exactly where we wanted to be, so in that sense we’re very happy, we set ourselves a target of not losing a league game all season, which we’re still on track for”.
However, the skipper added that there was no room for complacency, saying “we’re not resting on our laurels, we know we’re not starting well enough in games, and now that teams have played against us, they know what to expect, and that element of surprise has gone, they’ll be better prepared for us”, adding that “we know that this is going to be the toughest four months ahead of us now”.
Trueman highlighted the squad’s strength in depth which he believes has created a healthy competition for places.
“We’ve got 40 players in the squad and every one of those players can step up into a first-team shirt and do a job. The competition is absolutely unbelievable, it’s perfect, it’s exactly what you need, you need to be looking over your shoulder the whole time, and it’s what creates a good atmosphere. I get guys coming up to me saying, ‘Why aren’t I playing, what’s gone wrong?’ Everyone wants that first team shirt, there are a lot of good players in this team who are going to snatch at that chance whenever they get it, which is exactly what we want”.
Trueman believes that fly-half James Brown has made a crucial contribution to the side’s successful first half of to the season, saying “he runs things, you can see that air of class he has when he’s on the pitch and putting people into space”.
However, it’s the games that Brown has missed help which help underline Trueman’s belief in the squad’s depth.
“You look at the games he hasn’t played, you look at Scott Hadden who has come in and been fantastic as well and for myself, in the centre position, I had six weeks out and I was sat there watching Rory Damant and Ian McInroy tear it up in the centres, week in, week out”.
London Scottish return to league action on Saturday 24 January at the Athletic Ground in the home fixture against Richmond in the third match this season between the co-tenants, and Trueman expects a typically tough encounter.
“I think Richmond, if you catch them on their day, they’re one of the most dangerous teams around. The difference between the way they played in the league game and the way they played in the cup game was pretty noticeable, I thought. When it came to the league fixture they played like there was a lot more riding on it, almost as though they were playing for their lives, and we can expect that again a week on Saturday”.
Trueman acknowledges that the derby aspect of matches between the sides adds an extra element to the encounter.
“There’s a lot of history with the game, there’s a lot of pride at stake which comes into play, and I honestly think if Richmond play with that same sort of zest against the majority of the other teams, they’d be in the top three. But it’s a fixture everyone looks forward to, all the players look forward to it, the supporters look forward to it and both clubs look forward to it, so I think in that sense it’s going to be a spectacle, everyone’s going to give everything and there’s going to be a few bodies strewn all over the pitch!”.