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Cambridge Rugby Club use extended break to add depth to National League One plans

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Joe Tarrant scored Cambridge's final try of the 2019/20 season, in the win over Birmingham Moseley in March. Picture: Keith Heppell
Joe Tarrant scored Cambridge's final try of the 2019/20 season, in the win over Birmingham Moseley in March. Picture: Keith Heppell

An extended off-season will allow Cambridge the opportunity to add more depth to their plans for the next campaign, according to head coach Richie Williams.

Their last game in National League One was on March 7, a 13-12 win over Birmingham Moseley.

A scheduled weekend off for the Six Nations was then followed by the cancellation of the remainder of the season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It has meant that Cambridge could face a possible hiatus of six months without competitive rugby, but the coaching staff have been adapting accordingly.

“It’s afforded us a bit more time to review the season just gone and highlight any trends in our performances that can help us with our planning for next season,” said Williams.

“Having an extended off-season has allowed us to reinforce where we think we need to strengthen in terms of our recruitment for next season.

“It’s come from the observations we had through the whole season but also looking through the games in a bit more detail, looking at certain aspects of our attack and defence.

“It’s probably brought our attention to some areas of our game that if we can improve by another 10 to 15 per cent then we will finish higher up the league table next season.”

One of the biggest challenges facing many sports is when they will be able to resume.

In Cambridge’s case, it will be to start pre-season. Traditionally, they return in the first week of July, train for four weeks, have a week off and then build-up to the kick off in September.

However, everything is unknown.

“There are things that you want to do in your pre-season and off-season which will change,” said Williams.

“It’s just not knowing the time-frame and the amount of contact time we can have with the players is hard to plan for.”

The club is well set up as a whole to adjust to the circumstances.

They finished 10th, with four games remaining, which marks a considerable improvement on the 2018-19 campaign when they avoided relegation on the final day.

It meant that shaping the squad was a lot harder then than it is now.

“This season, a lot of our recruitment and retention started at Christmas time so we were ahead of the curve with how we wanted the squad to look next season,” said Williams.

“The only caveat would be if we don’t start the season until a later period and that would have to reflect in the contracts we’ve offered the players. The financial gains or rewards won’t be as much as the players normally have.

“We’re in a better position than a number of other clubs at our level, there are a lot more local players that are playing for us, a lot more players that have played for the club 50 times, there are a lot of centurions in our group.

“I’m really optimistic and hopeful that we’ve got a really strong core of players that we’ve established this season and with the addition of another three or four players maximum we will be going really well next season.”

The club are also keen to help the community during these difficult times, and head of community Ben Penfold has set up a Here to Help campaign.

“It’s reinforced the whole ethos we’ve got of being a community club and supporting from within, but engaging with the wider community as well,” added Williams.

“There have been a number of initiatives we’ve run over the last couple of weeks that have demonstrated those qualities, and you just have to look at what the players are doing away from rugby as they are staying connected with each other.”

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