In an exclusive interview, London Scottish Head Coach Brett Taylor reflects on the side’s progress so far in 2009, last Saturday’s 18-7 local derby win against Rosslyn Park, and looks ahead to the team’s trip to Cornwall to play Mounts Bay in the fifth round of the EDF National Trophy this weekend.
With league and cup matches against strong opposition now coming thick and fast following a longer-than-usual Christmas break due to frozen pitches and fixture clashes, and February’s snow continuing to cause disruption, Taylor acknowledges that the club is in the middle of a crucial stage of the season.
“Despite the weather and not being able to train, we’re very happy at the moment, but the challenges are stacked up against us as more games roll on to each other”, said Taylor.
With three victories against strong opposition so far in 2009, Taylor remains upbeat about the side’s prospects for the remainder of the season.
“We are in charge of our destiny. Saturday was a huge game in terms of making sure we maintain that top position” – London Scottish remain three points ahead of second-placed Ealing, with a game in hand – “and now it’s up to us to perform week in, week out against the sides that will want to knock us off our perch. I’m really happy with where we’re at, but I’ll be even happier once I know where we’re at come the First of May”.
Last Saturday’s visit to Rosslyn Park attracted a bumper crowd to The Rock, with numbers boosted also by the presence of former England star Austin Healey, who was filming for his forthcoming ITV show, The Big Tackle. Taylor believes that a number of factors lay behind the fixture’s drawing power.
“I think you’re looking at two pretty big clubs in terms of what they’ve recruited, what they’ve done and also the history, it’s about what London Scottish and Rosslyn Park bring to the game of rugby in the area”.
“No-one is hiding from the fact that both London Scottish and Rosslyn Park are ambitious to move up the levels and to be a stronger rugby force in the area, so I think Saturday was testament not only to the interest in Rosslyn Park’s crowd and what they’re doing, but also what Austin Healey brought to it with The Big Tackle”.
“All in all it was a fantastic rugby day”, Taylor continued, “and again, that’s due to the interest that was generated by Austin, and also the interest in the match among the Rosslyn Park and London Scottish supporters”.
With the prospect of a 550-mile round trip to Penzance to face Mounts Bay in the EDF National Trophy fifth round this weekend, Taylor believes that it is important to preserve his players’ normal matchday routine as far as possible.
As he explains, “for me, you’ve got to make it as close to a home day as possible. What a lot of people do when they go away is have meetings for meetings’ sake. But we’re not going to get down there until midnight, so it’s a question of just letting the players do what they normally do in the morning, however they go about doing it, and then we’ll ask them to meet when we’d normally ask them to meet on a Saturday”.
“You’ve got to just make it as normal as possible, so to speak, that for me is the absolute key”, Taylor added. “We did a pretty good job going up to Manchester, going up there on the day, here we’re trying to give them the opportunity to get down there on the Friday night, to stay in a hotel, which is not always perfect, because it’s different types of beds, et cetera, but we’re trying our best to help the players succeed as well as well as we can by keeping it as normal as we can as a coach”.
Victory over Mounts Bay would put London Scottish into the last eight of a tournament featuring the heavyweights of National Leagues 1 or 2, and Taylor is aware of how great an achievement that would be.
“For the club, it’s history-making in terms of where we’re getting to this season”, he claimed. “It’s a chance to pit ourselves against a National 2 side, if we can come through that and perform well, then a home game against the likes of Exeter or Leeds would be outstanding. I’m incredibly proud of what the club has done and what the players have done and it shows where we are in terms of our development”.
With the club gunning for promotion, the fixture also provides an opportunity for Taylor to benchmark his side’s progress against a team from the league in which London Scottish may well feature next season.
“It will be a good test to see where we’re at”, he reflected, “and that’s the type of travelling that we’re going to have to contend with as well”.
Brett Taylor was speaking to Simon MacMichael