CHRIS KIRWAN SAYS: Don't read too much into friendly results
ARMAGEDDON was being predicted in the North East of England in the summer of 2009.
“Newcastle plumb new depths with shocking 6-1 defeat to Leyton Orient,” said an alarming headline after a humiliating pre-season loss.
Nine months later Chris Hughton, who was caretaker boss for the Magpies at Brisbane Road, led the Geordies back into the Premier League.
Of course, you don’t have to look that far back or outside Gwent for examples of too much being read into friendly defeats.
Newport County are sitting pretty at the top of the Conference thanks to two victories from two games; a situation that the doom mongers didn’t see coming when the Exiles lost to Undy Athletic in July.
Conversely, County had a good pre-season in 2011 against the likes of Stoke and Cheltenham but a campaign to forget.
When it comes to rugby many bosses would love to do without friendlies.
Former Newport Gwent Dragons head coach Paul Turner often used to say he would rather have training sessions and his successor Darren Edwards probably agrees.
In terms of results the region’s pre-season hasn’t gone to plan.
A few eyebrows have been raised after a humbling by a semi-professional Gwent Select XV at Rodney Parade and a 40-3 thrashing at the hands of Biarritz.
But it’s far too early to sound the alarm bell; it’s all about working towards that RaboDirect Pro12 opener against Zebre on August 31.
The clash with the Gwent Select would have provided more worth than previous one-sided clashes against scratch teams comprising players from the Premier-ship that were thrown together and trotted out as cannon fodder.
And in truth the trip to Biarritz, who start their season this weekend, was always going to be a tough one even before the heatwave that struck Spain and the south of France.
The Ospreys won the Pro12 last term but still endured a 36-5 Heineken Cup thrashing at the Parc des Sports Aguilera.
By all accounts Biarritz changed their entire side at half-time in the sapping heat while the Dragons were fatigued after a week of hard training.
Of course, those are excuses and a 40-3 loss is hard to sugar coat.
A better scoreline is needed against London Irish tomorrow but the heat isn’t on for a morale-boosting win, as some claim.
It may provide a spring in the step for a few days but it will count for very little when the Dragons take to the field against Zebre at the end of the month.
The heat IS on for an improved performance from the previous two friendlies but all the region should be concerned about is working towards their Pro12 encounter with the new Italian franchise.
The Dragons want to head into September with four, or preferably five, points from their league opener.
A resounding win against the Irish won’t provide much more of a clue to their hopes of achieving that than their loss to the semi-pros or drubbing in the heat of Biarritz.