Shelford Rugby Club pitch in for a new era
Opening of new facilities at the Davey Field
New will be the prime word at Shelford Rugby Club this Saturday.
A new pitch, a new head coach and a transition to a new style of play will all be celebrated when Southend Saxons visit the Davey Field.
As part of an RFU initiative across the country after the 2015 World Cup, the governing body has paid for the 3G surface, floodlights and fencing, costing around £1million. Shelford have a 10-year lease which guarantees them 12 hours a week on the facility.
Mike Gillick will be in charge for the first time at home, having succeeded director of rugby Dick Matthews and head coach Gareth Evans last week.
And one of the main aims of the 29-year-old player-coach will be an evolution in approach for Shelford, who have traditionally prided themselves on a forwards-orientated game.
“The new pitch is huge,” said Gillick. “We spoke about it as a coaching set-up at the beginning of the season, how Shelford are going to have to change elements of their attacking style to suit the pitch.
“Rugby has moved on from being a sport of attrition where the gnarliest pack wins.
“Obviously, there is still a place for it because rugby is a sport for all, but the way the game is going as a spectacle, it has to be more exciting which means a more expansive style of play.
“If you look at how Eddie Jones is coaching and how the international sides are playing, the dark arts of the forwards are not exactly going out of the game, but we’ve got forwards passing now, which is exciting.
“Teams are trying to shift the point of contact, instead of create the point of contact. They are trying to create thinkers, and get away from the fact that forwards run into people and create holes by their attrition and backs then start dancing around people.
“It’s actually trying to create space. The way defences are much more structured now, it’s a lot harder to break down when you are relying on people tackling in twos and the rest of the defence is on their feet.
“Whereas before, there would be a huge bundle of bodies at a breakdown and there would a huge amount of space elsewhere; that’s not the case anymore.”
It has been a difficult start to the season for Shelford, with three defeats in National League Three, London & SE.
After losses to Hertford and Tunbridge Wells, they were beaten 30-27 at Dorking last weekend, with their points coming through two tries from Charlie Parkhouse, one apiece from Tom Lucas and Simon Hrbek and seven points from Josh Simmons’ boot.
But the squad still looks strong enough to more than hold their own in the division.
“There are a lot of the old heads of Shelford that love the nitty gritty and what they’ve prided themselves on, being very confrontational, very aggressive,” said Gillick.
“But there’s a good a mixture of the youth coming through as well; some really keen colts coming through pushing for spots and if you look at the majority of the squad they are in their mid-20s.
“So a great bulk of the squad is fairly youthful in regards to their league experience and men’s rugby.”
Gillick is now hoping that the distractions off the pitch have passed and that Shelford can get their campaign back on track, but he has warned not to expect an immediate change in style.
“I’ve made myself very clear to the committee and people that this isn’t going to be a quick fix,” he said. “If they are expecting Shelford to now come out and play Harlem Globetrotter-esque/Barbarian rugby from the off, it’s a very naïve approach.
“It’s going to be a fairly gradual process. You can definitely see elements of what we’re trying to do already, it’s just refining those details to create a more expansive game to suit this pitch.”