An unusual event, but sports related so valid to be here I feel. A recalling of the event and a bit of a article all rolled into one.
I’ve said before but I will say it again – Premiership Rugby as an organisation are very inclusive. They recognise, ‘people like me’ – those of us who write about the game because we have a passion. The internet means that anyone can get their thoughts and opinions in front of fellow fans. It’s great that the body in charge of the top tier of rugby in England embrace those who take their time to do so.
And so I found myself heading for the BT Tower for the Fixture Release event. I’d never been in the place but of course had seen as part of the London skyline for many years. I was looking forward, with a little trepidation, to experiencing the views.
I’m getting to know some of the people who frequent such events and it was nice to see some familiar faces. There were a fair few Saracens people, it was good to catch up with Hugh Vyvyan and Neil De Kock amongst others.
My day was made when I found myself sitting next to Phil Bennett – we really are talking rugby legend! He was part of the team that gave this Essex girl a real love of Welsh rugby – so much so that I’m a Welsh RU Gold member.
Any attempt at being cool went straight out the window! I just had to have a photo! He was very friendly, extolling the virtues of a visit to Llanelli Scarlets. They have some good opposition in the European Challenge Cup – I may just have to make a visit.
The main business of the day started at around 11am – Martin Bayfield was the ‘Master of Ceremonies’ – clearly we’ve all seen him on BT Sport but this is a different sort of role. One he’s very good at!
I was lucky enough to have seen him carry our a similar task at the RPA Awards evening – he’s an eloquent and funny speaker.
We heard from Alex Sanderson of Saracens, Dai Young of Wasps, Dean Ryan of Worcester Warriors and Bob Casey of London Irish. They were introduced by Martin as an ‘Array of Rugby Tonnage’!
A few highlights from the men in the spotlight – Bob Casey in his role as Operations Director at Irish is looking forward to the new season. They’ve been busy on the new signings front with 11 arriving. He praised their new training centre Halewood, it is a great facility I was lucky enough to be at the opening last year.
Dean Ryan was asked who we needed to look out for at Worcester in their role as Premiership newbies – I’d say it was hard for him to pick but he had words of praise for Max Stelling, Cooper Vuna, Brude Heem, Tom Heathcote and Chris Pennell.
He expanded on Chris Pennell, explaining that it was key for him stay at Worcester – Pennell is a Warrior through and through and pledged his future to his club with a long term contract. His attitude being – ‘Let’s sort this out’
Dai Young spoke about being at The Ricoh Arena, it’s been a positive move for the club – he started by saying the first thing for Wasps was to ensure they didn’t get relegated, I imagine that’s in the forefront of every mind. Yet I feel that Wasps will be writing high again this season after a great 14/15 and some high profile new signings – he’s looking for a Top 6 finish, they may well break into the Top 4.
Alex Sanderson was next up and asked how he’d like the culture to be at Saracens as holders of the Premiership Rugby title. Saracens are ‘In it to win it’ they’ll take it week by week and he’d like the culture to remain as it has been. Yet see an improvement by 10% a week to stay in contention. He wants Saracens to be a ‘happy place to coach and play’
The season takes a different shape in 2015-16 with the 1st games kicking off on Friday 16th October – Newcomers Worcester Warriors start the ball rolling at Sixways taking on 14/15 table toppers Northampton Saints – going in at the deep end!
We have to wait until the 28th November for the Twickenham Double Header – it will be contested by Saracens v Worcester and London Irish v Wasps – taking place in London – but no longer a London Double Header.
There’s a 10 week run of games from 30th January right up to 2nd April – that clearly takes in the 6 Nations Tournament – depth of squads will be a key factor for what will be a physically punishing season.
We were also there for the launch of the Singha Premiership Rugby 7’s Series – we had the company of Joe Simpson of Wasps, Henry Trinder of Gloucester, Howard Graham of Quins and Tom Shanklin of Cardiff Blues.
There’s a Welsh leg of the series this year taking place in Cardiff on 15th August – Tom explained how important this is for Welsh Rugby and Cardiff Blues who’ll host the leg. It gives 18, 19, 20 year olds a chance to hear their names shouted by a large crowd. The winner of the leg will progress to the final at the Stoop on 28th August.
Martin couldn’t resist a mention of the World Cup with Wales and England being in the same group. Tom explained that England are doing it all wrong as far as Warren Gatland is concerned, They’re away doing altitude and hot weather training – he did wonder if England know their World Cup is largely in Twickenham! As far as he’s concerned the ‘Group of Death’ may just as well be decided by paper, scissors, stone – but Tom does believe the winner will be in the Final.
We heard from each of the Premiership rugby men – Joe Simpson is on the mend. I had a chat with him before the formal part of the morning started – we spoke about Wasps’ new signing George Smith – along with Serge Betsen and Jonny Wilkinson he’s a legend on the list of men he’s wanted to meet. He’s 2 down and will tick the 3rd off soon!
In a huge year of sport the Premiership Rugby season can only add to the excitement!
I had a double day planned so didn’t hang about for too long, long enough for some lunch however before I rushed back for Event 87!