by Paul Smith
For a man who seemed to have been in Worcester since Edward Elgar first had a tune come to mind, Jonny Arr is already remarkably comfortable in his new role as captain of Birmingham Moseley.
The RGS Worcester educated scrum half, who went from the Sixways terraces via the club’s academy to make over 200 first team appearances, made the switch to Billesley Common in July.
And the 30-year-old admits his first taste of part-time, semi-pro rugby is proving as enjoyable as it is eye-opening.
“I’m loving Moseley so far,” he said. “There is a very special feel about rugby here which is totally different from life at the professional clubs.
“The fans have made me and all the other new players feel very much at home, and strange though it sounds it feels a bit like starting out and being 17 again.
“I hadn’t really thought about being captain – even though there has been a wholescale change to the playing squad some big characters like Buster Lawrence and Jacques le Roux stayed on.
“I just came here and got my head down and slotted in, but when (director of rugby) Adam Balding asked me about doing the job I was more than up for the challenge.
“Part of my reason for coming here was to try and help a team improve. I learned a lot over my years at Worcester and if I can transfer some of that knowledge then it can only help with that.”
After two home games, Moseley’s fans are still finding their way round Balding’s squad which features only a handful of survivors from last year.
And according to Arr the players face a similar ‘getting to know you’ period in the early stages of the National One campaign.
“Getting to grips with being a newly-developed squad is likely to pose a few challenges for a while yet,” he said.
“Some of the other National One clubs have been together as a unit for years, but despite that we’ve started really well and our on-pitch relationships will only improve over time.
“We would probably have been pretty happy with 11 points from the first three games. The good thing is that we are far from playing perfect rugby and there is plenty of scope for improvement.
“Fully understanding how our coaches want to approach things will not happen immediately. We have all come from different clubs with different game-plans, which means we are three months into something which is new to everyone.
“There’s plenty of good players and strong teams in National One. Although we had an easy victory on the opening day, we got a shock at Rams in round two. Based on that, and what we saw against Bishop’s Stortford, that’s the standard we will come across week-in, week-out which means we’re going to have to play some good rugby to get wins on the board.
“Billesley Common is a good place to call home and with two wins there so far we’ve made a good start. It’s a bit of a cliché but we need to turn it into a fortress where visiting teams know nothing less than their very best rugby will be good enough.”
Aside from cooking their own lunch, those moving from full-time to part-time rugby typically cite lack of preparation time as the biggest culture shock.
Moseley’s new skipper is no exception – although he does have a refreshing outlook on this time management challenge.
“We train for a couple of hours two or three times a week,” he said. “whereas at Worcester we spent lots of time on every aspect of the game.
“Getting everything covered is an extremely difficult task, so it’s important that we concentrate on maximising our strengths then try to improve everything else as and when we can.
“In the professional era there is a risk that teams over-analyse opponents and get too far away from their own rugby, so only having time for that internal focus is maybe not such a bad thing.”
Picture Dan Bellenger
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