BIG MATCH PREVIEW -
by Joe Heaton
Worcester Warriors v Moseley at Sixways - Saturday August 23rd k. o. 3pm
The summer is drawing to a close and the first league match of the season (v London Welsh at home on Saturday, 30th August) is on the horizon. Before then, however, there are two practice matches to enable the coaches and supporters to run their eyes over the First XV squad, particularly the newcomers.
No matter how much pre season training has been done, it is only in a genuinely competitive environment that the true fitness and worth of individual players can be judged and the effectiveness of the moves, so assiduously practised in training, assessed.
Moseley have done very well to persuade two Premiership clubs (one English and the other Welsh) to give them a pre-season run-out.
The matches are on:
Sunday, 17th August @ Billesley Common Moseley v Ebbw Vale (Free Entry)
Saturday, 23rd August @ Sixways Worcester Warriors v Moseley
Both opponents are full-time professional sides and will present Moseley with a huge challenge. At the end of the two matches we will have some idea of the gulf between the Premiership and the semi-professional sides of Division 1. It is vital that the Members give the Moseley players the maximum possible encouragement and support .
Before the advent of league rugby, Moseley had regular longstanding fixtures with all the top Welsh sides who attracted to the Reddings many Welsh born ‘Brummies’. to add to their vociferous travelling support. One of these clubs was Ebbw Vale, ‘The Steelmen’, to whom we offer a very warm welcome this afternoon.
Ebbw Vale is situated in the Borough of Blaenau Ghent, in the south east corner of Wales, which has a population of 72,000; not many people to sustain a premiership rugby club. Ebbw Vale is the largest of the three original towns that make up the Borough. It came into being in the 1770s with the opening of an iron works which, by the 1900s, had become the largest steelworks in Europe. This was ultimately closed in 2002, causing widespread unemployment. Many £millions of regeneration funds, however, have led an economic fightback and the prospects for the town are said to be better now than at any time since the second world war. The town is completely identified with the rugby club, which helped to sustain morale during the dark days.
Last season Ebbw Vale were fifth in the Welsh Premiership (behind Neath, Cardiff, Pontypridd and Swansea), a fine achievement given the modest size of their fan base. The only knowledge Moseley have of their players and style of play is that provided by the four players in the club, who have had recent experience in the Welsh Premiership, and the report that they have just appointed a new backs coach (Matthew McCarthy). Nevertheless we can be sure that, practice game though it may be, faced with an English side, Ebbw Vale will be fired up and believe the honour of Wales is at stake.
It should be an interesting afternoon, especially since this will be Moseley’s first game under the revised Laws of Rugby. There is no charge for admission on the day, or for the on-site parking, of which there is plenty!
If anyone in the 1980s had told Moseley members that, in the not too distant future, Worcester Rugby Club would be lauding it over Moseley from the highest pinnacles of the game, they would have been laughed off the Reddings.
Worcester’s climb to the Premiership is an object lesson in what a great deal of money can do when it is focussed on a clear objective and backed with good coaching and commercial management.
However, in spite of having strong and long standing financial support from Chairman Cecil Duckworth and excellent coaching staff, Worcester have found it hard to establish themselves in the Premiership since their promotion from National Division 1 at the end of the 2003-04 season. During the latter stages of the 2006-07 season, they produced the greatest escape act in the history of the Premiership to hold on to their top status. At one stage they were six points adrift, having played one more game than their fellow strugglers at the foot of the table. Although they survived, their coach, John Brain, was replaced by the Welshman Mike Ruddock for the start of last season, which was only marginally less stressful as they finished tenth in the League, with only Newcastle and Leeds below them.
Worcester are taking seriously the build up to this season. The week before they meet Moseley they will be playing Doncaster and the week after they will travel to Ulster. The match against Moseley has been designated as a Testimonial Match for their long standing front row forward Tony Windo, who has made no less than 225 first team appearances for Worcester. To that end there will be a match charge of £10 (£5 for children)
The news from Sixways is that Mike Ruddock will be giving youth its head at the start of this season. Since taking over from John Brain he has already given eight Academy players the opportunity to show their potential at the highest level and this policy is set to continue.
Clearly this game will be a stern test for Moseley.
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