Lead Rugby Consultant Steve Diamond spoke to the media today ahead of Wednesday’s Premiership Rugby Cup match at Bath Rugby and Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership match against Newcastle Falcons at Sixways.
Here’s what Steve had to say:
Last Friday’s Gloucester match had to be cancelled because of cases of COVID, illness and injuries in the camp. When did you first know you might have an issue?
- It was on Thursday. We had a spate of players who went down ill overnight.
- We had already got some COVID cases and other players were showing similar symptoms to COVID of coughing, sweating and general fever.
- It was a very unpleasant week but thankfully it’s behind us.
There has been a lot of negative reaction, particularly from Gloucester. Why was the announcement made so late?
- We informed Gloucester at 2.30pm on Thursday that we were having problems in meeting the requirement to have six front row players in the squad.
- We did try to source other players for possible loan deals. We contacted the other Premiership clubs and also looked around the Championship.
- But you can’t just bring a big 17 stone lad in off the street and expect him to play at tighthead in the Premiership. You have to consider the welfare and safety of players.
- On Friday morning we went down to one fit tighthead and then that tighthead became very ill and required medical attention at home.
- We did ask if we could postpone the game to another date but Premiership regulations do not permit that.
- We also suggested the possibility of playing a hybrid game with uncontested scrums from minute one but, again, the regulations do not permit that.
- We didn’t stand to gain or lose anything by not playing the match. We did everything we could medically to play the game. In the end it was a decision based purely on medical advice and on the grounds of player welfare.
- The commercial impact for Gloucester is big and I feel sorry for them. But that should not come before player welfare.
Haven’t you also been off with the bug that is going round?
- It’s the first day’s work that I have missed in 54 years and people up North are calling me soft.
- The rest of the coaching team were off at some stage last week, three of us on Thursday.
Will you be able to fulfil Wednesday’s fixture at Bath?
- Yes we will. We have brought four players in on loan from Hartpury. The rest of the squad will be coming back in tomorrow and on Thursday as their condition improves.
- Billy Searle will captain the side.
- We have a chance of progressing to the semi-finals and, if do, the lads who have played well in this competition have put their hands up for selection if we got through.
- Some players came back in today for the first time since Thursday. Everything in the High Performance Centre has had a very thorough deep clean and hopefully we have eradicated whatever it was that has caused this issue.
- Four or five of the players who will be involved at Bath are likely to be in the 23 on Saturday. But 12 or 13 of the squad have not trained today.
- We will get them in on Thursday and try to push some blood through their veins.
- Newcastle probably should have beaten Wasps at the weekend and their form away from home is as good as their home form.
On the news that Willi Heinz has left the club and Sione Vailanu will do so at the end of the season.
- Willi’s family returned to New Zealand where they have a business. He was missing his family and it was all very amicable.
- Sione’s situation was different. When I take over as Director of Rugby at the end of the season I will need two forward packs, one who can defend and can play to the plan that I want them to play.
- Sione has been brilliant carrying the ball but I didn’t think he would fit into the mould I wanted.
- We sat down and had a chat and I helped him and his agent and assisted them in getting a job with Glasgow.
- They were looking for a ball carrying number eight and I thought Sione would suit their game plan.
- Sione has played very well since we had that conversation which is what you expect good lads to do.
Are there new signings on the way?
- We shall be announcing a number of new signings over the next few weeks.
- I don’t always get it right but I know what you need to be competitive in this league.
- In my opinion, the opinion of the other coaches, the analysts’ opinion and the opinion of our senior players, the players who are joining us this summer will be better than the players who are leaving.
- That is no disrespect to the players who are leaving. They are a great set of lads who are moving to pastures new.
- There are also one or two players who I have yet to make a decision on so it’s important that I speak to them first.
- Owen Williams, Ollie Lawrence, Francois Venter and Sam Lewis will not be available this weekend. We have a bye week in Europe the following week but we may have a game the week after that and they could all be in contention to play in that.
- Duhan van der Merwe had an ankle injury last week but he is back running.
- Rory Sutherland and Niall Annett were very poorly with illness last week.