Improvement is ‘Major’
NEATH v NEWPORT (Tomorrow, KO 2.30)
THOSE of you old enough may remember ‘Back to Basics’ as a campaign in the early 1990s launched by prime minister John Major to revive his ailing Conservative government, but it’s also part of a rugby philosophy that has worked wonders to turn around Newport’s fortunes this season.
The Black and Ambers are on a real roll at the moment, having won every one of their last four matches after a wobbly start to the season.
Captain and openside flanker Craig Attwell said that the improvement started once the club decided that honesty was the best policy in overcoming those early setbacks.
“We have finally started to click over the last few weeks and I think a lot of it is down to us concentrating on the basics,” he said.
“Defensively we were conceding tries and the coaches and players decided to have a meeting to discuss what was going wrong and look at how we were going to put things right.”
Impressive wins over Connacht Eagles, Swalec Cup holders Cross Keys, league champions Pontypridd and Swansea have followed.
Neath stand in the way of a fifth win in a row, the once mighty Welsh All Blacks having fallen on hard times of late after dominating semi-professional rugby for years.
But any visit to The Gnoll is never a comfortable one and the club are working hard to put things right behind the scenes.
They have brought on board former Ebbw Vale head honcho Neil Edwards as assistant coach to chief Pat Horgan and have signed two fine ex-Keys players in back rower Rhys Williams and tighthead prop Marc Jones.
Neath are three from bottom of the table with just two wins and seven defeats to show from their nine Premiership games so far.
Newport head west with confidence but, as Attwell pointed out, very wary of a backlash from the hosts.
“The massive wins over Connacht, Cross Keys and Pontypridd have given us big boosts to our confidence,” he said.
“But regardless of their league position, it’s always going to be tough at Neath and I’m sure their players will be eager to prove a point to their new coaches.”
Newport Gwent Dragons’ Mike Poole is due to feature for the Black and Ambers tomorrow.
The popular wing, plagued by injury throughout his career, returning to action after a major bump to his left knee while playing for Bedwas on the opening day of the season.