Head Coach Jonathan Thomas spoke to the media today ahead of Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership opener against London Irish at Sixways (kick-off 3.00pm).
Here’s what Jonathan had to say:
On the three pre-season friendlies
- We wanted the games to challenge us and they did that, we wanted them to be against quality opposition and they were and we wanted all of the squad to get game time and they did.
- We also wanted to put smiles back on the faces of our supporters as well because the last 18 months have been very tough. Inspiring our supporters is one of the intangible goals for this season.
- Each of the game challenged us in different ways. Glasgow challenged us at the breakdown, Connacht with the speed of their attack and Cornish Pirates gave our young side a really tough physical game.
- All of which has put us in a good place for round one of the Gallagher Premiership.
How have the new players settled in?
- There has been a high turnover in players and staff so one of the big challenges in pre-season is how quickly we can build combinations and team chemistry and get the whole club – players and staff – on the same page.
- We have talked about our identity, where we want to be and what our North Star is.
- There have been challenges thrown at us from COVID-19 but more than 85 per cent of our players and staff have now been double vaccinated. That is a huge thing for the club and huge credit goes to the support staff for getting us to that situation.
What challenges will London Irish bring?
- Under Declan Kidney they have become a quality Premiership side over the last couple of seasons.
- But the big thing for us is focusing on ourselves because we have new players that have had to get up to speed and new combinations.
- We know that if we can get our basics right we are going to be a good side.
On playing in front of supporters again
- I enjoying having dialogue with our supporters and listening to their views – positive and negative. We cannot work in a bubble as a team and not be aware of where our fans are and what they are thinking.
- Inspiring our supporters is something that we have talked about. We know that the last 12 months or so have been tough for them for a number of reasons and we empathise with them.
- We want to become consistent and a team that is tough to beat every week not every other week.
- Most of our supporters say that if they see a team that works incredibly hard, shows pride in wearing the jersey and puts in huge commitment then they will buy into that.
Will Rory Sutherland and Duhan van der Merwe feature this weekend?
- No. They have had some time off after the British and Irish Lions tour. Rory joined up with us yesterday and Duhan is due to join us on Wednesday.
- Just because they are here doesn’t mean they are ready to play, it means they are ready to train and start building their capacity.
- We are not going to set a definite time frame on when we expect them to play for us.
Chris Ashton didn’t play in the pre-season matches, is he injured?
- Chris was going well in pre-season but he then tweaked a calf and will be out of action for a few weeks.