Issue 90 - Page 33

WHY DO YOU FEEL SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE A SPECIAL FONDNESS FOR LONDON WELSH ? I suppose as its an exiles club its a bit different , what other club has the mass ranks of the London Welsh Rugby Club male voice choir singing outside the clubhouse as the players are going up to the changing rooms after a game ! But its not just the welshness of the club , we pride ourselves on making everyone welcome where ever they come from , whether as a visitor , a supporter or a player . Over the course of this 5 year journey , we have had players from all corners of the globe , Australia , NZ , Argentina , Italy , Ireland , USA , and of course many of our squad are English , and we are so glad they choose to play for us .
THE CLUB HAS BEEN PLAYING BLIND TO A LARGE DEGREE AS THEY HAVE RACED THROUGH THE LEAGUES HOW DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE MANAGED TO COPE WITH
THE UNCERTAINTY ? Yes we really have no idea what the leagues we are promoted into each season are like , but we take nothing for granted , and we expect the sides to be bigger and better than the last season , and we hopefully will attract better players year on year , and also hope our current squad will improve for the coaching and experience of playing a higher level each season . And as we do not pay any players , all we can hope for is that they want to play for us for what we provide with top quality coaching , medical care and of course team spirit , which we have in abundance .
HOW WOULD YOU SAY THE YEAR HAS GONE FOR THE CLUB SO FAR ? So far so good , I think top of the table and unbeaten says it all , but complacency is not in our vocabulary , and Cai Griffiths and Steve Shingler remind us of it often in team meetings . We are the scalp that every team in our league is after , we know there is a target on our back , but that is used as our motivation .
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE REST OF 2021 AND OVER THE NEXT 3 SEASONS ? We obviously hope to get promoted this season , which makes it 4 on the bounce . As a board we reassess at the end of each campaign , under the Chairmanship of Danny Griffiths , along with the coaching staff we start planning for the next level , sooner or later , there will be some hard discussions to be had about what direction we go , do we find our level , and play a good standard of competitive attractive rugby , or do we keep trying to climb the leagues , with the expense and change of direction that would entail . All these decisions are fast approaching .
HOW IMPORTANT IS YOUTH RUGBY TO THE CLUB ? Extremely important , London Welsh Minis and Youth continues to be a vibrant place for youngster to learn and develop a passion for the game and our club . The Minis are aged from U6 to U12 and we typically have between 20 and 40 players in each age group made up of local children and those who have connections to Wales and want to be part of London Welsh . We are inclusive and it ’ s rugby for everyone who wants to give it a go ; boys and girls .
At Youth level we take it a bit more seriously , but we are still inclusive and anyone and everyone can play rugby here . We have coaches from the Performance squad who help out and inspire the future generations of players and at U16 we have first team player Tom Baldwin as head coach . They recently played Sale FC who were touring in London and had a great match with LW shading it by 3 points .
DO YOU OR DO YOU PLAN TO HAVE A WOMEN ’ S / GIRLS TEAM ? London Welsh Women ’ s Rugby formed in 1985 and have been a long standing part of the London Welsh set up at Old Deer Park . A competitive , but social , squad
with players new and old , we pride ourselves on our inclusive set up .
Our last full season in 2019 / 20 saw us finish 4th in National Championship 1 South East ( North ) and we are playing in this league once again , albeit with some different opposition .
This year we have had a bit of a staggered start , with a couple of teams in our league withdrawing from fixtures , meaning we ’ ve only played two league matches so far . We have won one and lost one and are working hard at training to improve further to produce a strong and dynamic squad for future matches . We are very pleased to have welcomed new players to London Welsh this season , increasing our player numbers and growing our strength and depth in all positions .
We are proud to be part of the London Welsh family and this can be seen through the links we have throughout the club . A number of the team help coach our youth girls ; we have representatives on the Supporters Club and within the LW Hub and our Head Coach , Michael Griffiths , is a member of the men ’ s performance squad . He , along with our Assistant / Backs Coach Lee Irvine have been working hard on helping the team to grow and we are lucky to have their knowledge and experience .
LONDON WELSH GIRLS As with all great ideas , Girls Rugby at London Welsh started with a conversation in the bar between a few of the Minis Coaches and members of the London Welsh Women ’ s squad .
The issue ? 3 of the current U11 team were girls and at the end of the season they were moving up to Youth rugby which does not allow for mixed genders . The girls were going to have to leave the club , where they had been playing since they were 5 or 6 , if they wanted to carry
on playing as there was no provision for girls to play Youth Rugby at London Welsh .
Determined to remedy this , in September 2019 several members of the London Welsh Women ’ s Team , led by Women ’ s Chair at the time Paula Cooper and Director of Women ’ s and Girls Rugby Ruth Barton , London Welsh Girls was formed . For the first session the coaches knew they had 3 players attending . By the end of the training session , they had 9 as word got round and girls passing by going to watch their brothers play stopped to join in . The numbers grew to 15 Under 13s players during the first year . They played matches against Ruislip and Harlequins , and took part in lots of local pitch up and play events . They were even in the process of planning a tour to Wales when COVID hit and stopped everything .
Determined not to let momentum slow the coaches carried on with a Zoom end of season awards , followed by a virtual scavenger hunt on tour weekend .
The 2020 / 21 season saw lots more disruption due to COVID . It was great to see 95 % of the girls return and new faces join throughout the
CONTINUED ...
33