David Clegg Meets With U19s Assistant Coach, Lee Connelly, To Preview Their Away Fixture At London On Bank Holiday Monday
After their recent trip to Perpiganan to take on the Catalans Dragons, a trip down to London would seem quite a short hike, in comparison, but the French trip was undertaken over three or four days, whereas the four hour return journey to the capital will be completed on the same day, giving the young Red Devils little time for relieving the cramped confines of the team bus.
This is a fact not wasted on Assistant Coach, Lee Connelly, who says that part of the role of the coaches will be making the journey down somewhat less onerous, so that the players quickly adapt to the purpose of their trip.
“We will have a short stop on route, where they will be able to get together to refocus their minds on the game,” he informs me.  “The ground we shall be playing on is not far from Wembley, so at least it is on this side of the city, though far enough for one day’s travel.”
“It’s not something we haven’t done before, and our strength and conditioning coach, Mike Thomasson, together with his staff, have prepared for this”.
“Coincidentally, we have recently been reducing our warm up time before games, as we have found that a short, dynamic, intense warm up has suited the lads, rather than the long protracted ones we used to have, and it has improved their performances, so it will be really helpful on this occasion, when we arrive.”
One of the first matches of the season had involved a fairly lengthy trip up to Newcastle, for the match against the North East, and that experience has given the coaching staff ideas to help relieve the monotony.
“One of the things we did on the way up there, was to have short one to one sessions with each of the players, going over each person’s role, his contribution to the game, and what is expected of him, all of which gets each of them into the right frame of mind before they get there,” he divulges.
First team players soon get used to having to play on a Bank Holiday, particularly around Easter time, but it is most unusual for the U19s to be called in for such a match.
“Obviously, we would have preferred an alternative day,” Lee confides, “but now we have got all our preparations in place, we are happy with the arrangements, and to be fair to the players they have trained well for game.”
U19s fixtures have been rather spasmodic, of late, with blank weekends surrounding the odd outing that has been scheduled.  Indeed, a friendly match against South Wales Scorpions has been arranged for a week’s time to prevent their having yet another blank weekend.
The disappointing result in their last outing, against Warrington, in which playing into the wind, during the first half, sapped much of their energy for the later stages of the game, is still rankling in the players’ minds, over a fortnight later.
“We could have done with a game the following week to get it out of their system,” concludes Lee, “but this match with London will be ideal, because the Broncos always play with a great deal of enthusiasm.  They are certainly very well built, and physical in their approach.
“Many of them will have come from rugby union, but most of the skills are transferrable.  We definitely will not be going there thinking that it will be straightforward, because we know that it will be a challenge, as it always has proved to be.”
It is, nevertheless, he tells me, the ideal opportunity to blood some of the younger players.  Second and third year players have, in general, made up the bulk of the team for most of the matches, but this particular fixture brings an opportunity for a few of the first year players to have an outing.
“We do have quite a large group of second years which we have used a lot,” he explains, “but game time isn’t the only way of developing youngest, so we have shied away from putting the first years in too early.  It’s about playing them at the right time and giving them the right exposure.  Some of them are now really beginning to make their mark, and this match would seem to be the right time to give them a chance.”
Indeed, as has been said on a number of occasions, it is about progressing the players through their development, rather than being overly concerned by individual results.
“Winning, at any level, is always nice, but what we really want to get out of the game is seeing many of the things we have put in place, being produced on the field.  Over the last few weeks we have changed a few areas of how we play, and while the lads have struggled to adapt to this, we have seen in training that they now seem to have adapted. Evidence of this on Monday will be most gratifying.”
Match Officials:
Referee –  Mr N Bennett
Touch Judges A Williams, J Collins
Venue – Ealing Trailfinders Rugby Union Club, W13 0DD                 KO 3pm