Salford Red Devils’ Own Garreth Carvell Gives A Coach’s Perspective Of Wales’s World Cup Prospects
It is as a result of a longstanding friendship with Wales’s head coach, John Kear, forged back in their days together at Hull FC that Salford Red Devils players’ welfare officer, Garreth Carvell, became involved in the coaching setup of the Welsh Dragons, as assistant coach, alongside Mark Moxon, of Batley Bulldogs.
The role is one in which generating camaraderie among the full squad of players is of prime importance together with ensuring the smooth running of the whole expedition to the southern hemisphere.
“We also get involved with the game, including the tactics employed in each game, and also have some input into team selection, together with overseeing the drills practice, in training,” Garreth details.  “It’s a full on role really.
“John takes the lead but he will consult with us on any issues which might arise.  We had a meeting a few weeks ago to select the final twenty-five players who will make up the squad, but even then one or two picked up injuries, and a further meeting became necessary to select replacements from those on standby.”
Squad selection is, as one might expect quite a challenging task, because with a number of contenders for each position, a clear set of criteria is required in order to enable the three of them to make informed, and objective, judgements.
“The bottom line is that, come the first match, the team has to perform,” he stresses.  “When the three of us took over, three years ago, we had the job of rebuilding the squad, and in fact in our first year we were starting with little more than a university team, which for the national Welsh squad was far from ideal, but some of those players have come all the way through with us, and so loyalty is a significant factor we take into consideration.
“We also take into account how well the players will gel, and how they will play together, which is important because we might not have a team of superstars, but what we do have is a group which will pull together and form a really tightly knit team.  That in itself will get us a long way.”
Having worked for so long with John Kear Garreth has always had a very high degree of respect for the man who will head the Welsh contingent, over the coming month.
“Trying to get a team up for each and every game, week in week out is exceptionally difficult, but John just seems to have that knack of being able to do so,” Garreth maintains.  “The most important day of the week is match day, and the build up to that can involve motivating them by means of rest, motivating them by means of some social event, or simply just ‘getting into them’.  John can gauge really well just what is suitable for any one occasion.”
With national coaches seemingly now appointed with little, or even no regard, for any connection with the country they are leading, it is refreshing to find in Garreth at least one person who does have quite genuine connections, as his father was born and bred in Wales.
“With a name like Garreth, could I ever not have had Welsh connections?  I even played for Wales in the 2002 with World Cup, before moving over to represent England, and then Great Britain,” he reminds us.
It will undoubtedly be expected that the England team will progress through to the later stages of the competition, but for the likes of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, getting further than the group stages is something of a challenge.
“There are some groups with really tough games,” Garreth acknowledges, “but nobody ever goes into a game thinking they are going to lose, and we have proved in the past that togetherness and attitude can provide you with considerable momentum, and we have it in abundance.
“I don’t see why we can’t make it past the group stage, and if we do it will be a great success.  We are going out a week in advance in order to get acclimatised, because where we are playing, the weather is going to be extremely warm.  It’s the same for everybody though, and we are looking forward to it.
“Playing against Papua New Guinea on their home soil will be an experience for some of the new lads which they will never forget.  They line the streets to the stadium and pelt stones at the bus, as we drive in, and we have also had to order a new strip because we know that after the game they will run on the field and strip the boys of the ones they have played in.  You just have to go with it all.”
One of the idiosyncrasies of the concept of a World Cup tournament is that two countries, each bordering the Irish Sea, will both be travelling half way round the world to play against each other in the final fixture, in Perth.
“The Irish, in their own way, are just as passionate as the Papua New Guineans, and they will be fired up to get one back on us following our win over them last year, but we are quietly confident that we can come out on top in that one,” he predicts.
“We are looking to ruffle a few feathers and surprise a few people with what we have got.  Fiji, whom we play in Cairns, have a number of players who could have played for Australia, so that’s the sort of level we have to get to, but when you come down to it that is why we are all involved.  Playing against the best players is the best way to improve your own game, and it will be a great, fantastic experience.”