Sevenoaks Rugby Club start their journey in the London Premier this Saturday away at Bedford Athletic so we caught up with Head Coach Adam Bowman to see how pre-season has gone and what he is expecting from his 95-man squad going into the first few weeks of the season.
“I’m pretty excited. We’ve been going for nine and a bit weeks now and a lot of preparation and hard work has gone into preseason. Now it’s kind of getting to the fun stuff. I’m really looking forward to the challenges of a higher league, new teams, new locations to go to”, he said.
Talking about the preseason results Bowman continued: “I think I’d always say to anyone is that we don’t take too much from the preseason games. Of course, it’s nice to win them, but we’re more interested in the guys working hard and looking at combinations and performance levels. So we’ve been relatively happy with how we’ve gone in preseason. Lots to work on obviously, but the league campaign is a completely different kettle of fish”.
As per last year, the club operate a senior squad, meaning that all 95 members are vying for positions between the 1’s, 2’s and 3’s. Bowman said: “We’ve got a very competitive squad and selection for this weekend has already gone out, our second XV is very strong, which will also mean our thirds will also be quite strong”.
“It’s a competitive squad with guys fighting for a first team shirt and fighting for a second team shirt. I’m very positive and looking forward to the 2nd XV and the 3rd XV doing just as well as they did last year. It will be hard and it will be tough, and there will be challenges ahead, but our ambition is as a collective, as a group, to do as well as we did last year.”
With Oaks captain Stuart Coleman stepping down in the summer, Bowman is confident that he has enough in his squad to fill his boots, he commented: “It’s going to always be very difficult to replace Stu, he’s a great player and a great leader, a great bloke as well. I worked very closely with him for three years, and we had a great working relationship. And of course, it’s going to be difficult to replace him, but it creates opportunities for those in the squad.
“It’s competitive and we’ve got lots of options, lots of quality rugby players in the group. I haven’t really thought a huge amount about Stu since he stepped down, everything’s been about focusing on what’s next and going forward. And we’ve got huge strength and depth in the squad.”
Talking about the start of the season and his expectations, Bowman added: “We’ll take it game by game across all three teams, it’s all you can do. We plan ahead, we plan for a block of fixtures. We’ve got block of eight fixtures as a squad at the start the season, which is probably the biggest block of fixtures I’ve ever experienced, and that’s probably due to the World Cup, which is going to be hugely attritional as a result.
“All we can do is focus on taking it game by game, we have of course planned for the block of fixtures, but you’ve got to look at it by game by game. And as a squad, we’ll work together to achieve our objectives, and our objectives for this week is to win two games at the weekend.”
Bowman finished by talking about the fantastic support the teams enjoy when playing at Knole Paddock, he said of the supporters: “I’ve never experienced anything like it on the circuit really, the support we get here is unbelievable. This is tough place to come, people talk about it, people say it, and there’ll be some tough times this year, because it’s a tough league. The support makes a massive difference to us, we’re very grateful to have it and I’ve no doubt it’ll be a very similar atmosphere this year”.
“We have our first games at home next weekend [September 14th]. Our 2’s will be kicking off with a friendly against Sidcup 2nd at 1pm on the main pitch before the 1st XV match at 3pm, also against Sidcup in the league. On the far pitch the Acorns/Gents are playing Vigo in the Jim Monks Memorial Trophy, all support for the weekend would be greatly appreciated by all at the club.”
Roger McKerlie, Sevenoaks’ Director of Rugby added: “This is a really exciting season for us right across the board. Obviously, first thing being at a level is we’ve never been at. So we’ve got to find out, can we handle it? Are we good enough to to establish ourselves at that level, but we want to build on what the 2’s, 3’s and 4’s did last year.
“We don’t expect to achieve what we did last year, that was pretty unprecedented I think. This year is about keeping our feet on the ground to make sure that we can still deliver on what we’ve been trying to do and stay true to how we play rugby across the club.
“We’re going to be tested this year. Some new guys have come in and some players from last year have improved, so we’re really excited about it. And it’s a no pressure situation because that’s the imperative thing, there’s no pressure on us. There are teams that expect themselves to be back at the National leagues, who invest a lot of money. We’re just who we are, the same as others, stay true to the brand and make sure that we as a club are doing it. It’s exciting, but a little bit of trepidation.