We’re back with another player interview and this time pre-season is done and the team are gearing up to face off against Ealing. We talk to Ollie Hoskins about the game ahead, claiming the 3 shirt, his history before joining Irish and more!
Hey Ollie, thanks for giving up your time to chat with us. How has training been today?
Good! Just a bit of a learning day for Ealing on the weekend so nothing too strenuous. Tomorrow’s our big day.
So I guess Mondays are based around looking back on the weekend?
Yeah pretty much, we have a big meeting and sort of review how Leicester went, the good and the bad things from there. Then we have another meeting to preview Ealing and seeing what we’re gonna do for them at the weekend. Then we go out on the field and have a lower key session because the boys are still a bit sore, just running through our plans for Ealing. Tomorrow we’ll ramp it up and do it with some intensity and contact.
It’s been a tough couple of pre-season games, two big name opponents and we’ve come away with two losses. How has that affected the mood in training leading up to the first game of the season?
They’re obviously two powerhouse clubs, full of internationals. We fought hard and there were periods, especially last week, where we were pretty dominant and then we had a few lapses that they capitalised on. That’s the trademark of a good team!
We reviewed them and saw the good parts & the bad parts and we feel pretty confident and ready to rip in on Saturday. Playing these top-notch teams has put us in good stead so that we can really fire into the Champ knowing that we’ve done some good things against good opposition!
Would you say then that the team is pretty confident ahead of the Ealing game?
Ealing are a very good side, we’re under no illusions. They were tough last time we were in the Championship and they had a very good season last year. They pushed Quins to the brink last week but we’re definitely very confident going in there and we’ll back ourselves to play a good round of footie and hopefully come away with the result. So, we’re always confident and these pre-season games have definitely put us in good stead. It’s been a tough pre-season and we’re ready to rip in!
Well as a fan that’s exactly what I wanted to hear! The Ealing game is being played in the evening, how much does that change your match day routine?
It’s more just pushing back times for things, you add an extra meal into your day when you play an evening. O nothing too different just a bit more of a sleep in, have an extra meal. I prefer earlier games so you don’t sit around all day and have to wait for the game to be honest but the temperature goes down a bit so the evening games are a bit easier on the lungs, so there’s pros and cons.
I suppose if you’re going to play an evening game better to have it now than in January.
Exactly! It’ll be good on Saturday, obviously it’s on Sky and stuff but hopefully we’ll be in front of a good crowd with a good amount of Irish supporters there too and we should put on a good show hopefully.
You joined London Irish the last time we were in the Championship, so looking back on that are there any teams or grounds you’re particularly looking forward to seeing?
The trip down to Penzance is always an interesting one, depending on what time of year you get to go down there. I think we’ve got two trips there, the first around December time so that will be lovely, probably playing in a bit of a mud pit in the wind and the rain. That’ll be a bit of an experience!
It’s nice to have a lot of games close to home, playing Richmond and London Scottish in Richmond which is where a lot of the boys live. Ealing’s quite close to home too. They’re probably the one’s I’m looking forward to the most, the road trip down to Penzance is always a good one!
For you boys in the row I guess the game against Scottish is a bit of a reunion with Richard Palframan and Tom Smallbone both potentially turning out for them?
Definitely, they were at the club for a long time and now they’ve moved on… Palf played on the weekend for them and apparently did well so they’ll have a bit of a point to prove against us so that will be a tough test when it comes round!
So what was it that inspired you to leave Australian rugby to head over to the UK and join us during the last Championship campaign?
Initially it a development thing. I wanted to develop certain parts of my game around set piece and forward play and I thought coming to the UK would be the best place for that to happen. My original idea was to spend probably a couple of years over here then go back home and try and push on back there but I’ve fallen in love with the place since I’ve been over here and I don’t see myself going back any time soon. I’ve got a British passport so my goals have changed and I’m trying to push for higher honours over this side of the world. I’ve fallen in love with Irish so hopefully it all works out, we get back in the Prem and set ourselves up for the long term future.
With Josh McNally getting called up to the England training squad at the back end of the season has that put international honours on the radar for you guys?
Yeah, first and foremost it’s much easier to get noticed when the team is doing well so if we have a good season this year, achieve what we want to achieve, go back into the Premiership and set in stone some good foundations for us to be successful in the top league further on past this season.
Before we can even look at that we have a tough season ahead and a tough matchup this Saturday so they’re the big picture goals but for that to come to fruition we have to take care of whats on offer right now!
You joined us from Western Force, you’re a Perth boy I think?
That’s right, born and bred!
So I’m guessing it was ‘your club’ growing up. Given the issues Super Rugby faced with their ring-fenced league growing too quickly and the Force subsequently being effectively dissolved, what was your point of view on that situation?
On the Force being kicked out? It was disappointing. Obviously I was a young kid following the Force when they first got put into Super Rugby, then I was in the academy system for all those years and I was a mad supporter and I managed to achieve a goal and play for them! They were my childhood club and to see the way Aussie rugby treated them and kicked them out wasn’t the greatest of experiences. I was lucky enough not to have to deal with it personally I guess but I had a lot of mates there, my brother worked for the Force and lost his job. A lot of my mates and family members lost their employment over it, it was quite tough so I was fortunate to have sorted things over here before it all went down but it was handled poorly.
It seems to me that the Perth team was always looked on as the little brother, over on the coast and away from the busier cities…
That’s the stigma we had growing up, playing rugby with the Force or rep teams, it was kind of “those other guys on the west side of the country” so we always played with a chip on our shoulder and a point to prove and I thought the Force over the years in Super Rugby proved they were fighters and may not have had the budget or the international players of other teams but we always punched above our weight and played hard. They always had a very loyal supporter base which reminds me a lot of Irish fans, through thick and thin whether results were going our way or not we always had the loyal people turning up to games so that’s why I’ve fallen in love with Irish so much, it reminds me a bit of home, there’s a lot of loyalty and even though up against the big dogs things may not go our way the fans are always with us!
You say you’ve fallen in love with things over here but is there anything in particular you miss from home?
Family is obviously number one! I’m not a massive fan of the heat so I quite enjoy a bit of the colder weather over here but sometimes in the depths of winter when we’re training in the snow and things it’s a bit of a wake-up call.
I do miss my family and the beach at home but in general, I really love the rugby over here, I prefer the weather most of the year and I’ve got a lot of family over here too. I love it here mate!
We’ve seen the videos Petrus du Plessis has been sharing of his training techniques, from seeing these – and from our conversation with him – it seems he is bringing his physiotherapy background into training. Have you noticed a difference?
Definitely. He’s very passionate about making sure the boys are prepped for scrummaging and reducing the concussion rates not just in scrummaging but general contact, having neck strength and stuff. He’s a very knowledgeable bloke, he’s got degrees in all sorts of things. Most of his videos are stuff we’re actually doing, some of it with the bikes on peoples back and all that we’re not really doing but pretty much all the rest we’ve been doing a couple of times a week. He’s taking sessions, he’s keeping on top of the boys, making sure we’re doing neck weights, he’s been a good asset!
It must be nice to have a guy in your playing position driving that too?
It’s always useful and Parra is so welcoming and happy to help people. Me and him were sitting down this morning, looking at scrums from the weekend, previewing Ealing and looking at a bunch of other stuff. He’s so knowledgeable in that part of the game and so willing to help blokes. He’s been big on me being able to take a step up and starting games at the end of last year and these pre-season games. He’s a very selfless bloke and all about the team so whether it’s me or him starting or whatever he’s always the first one to put his hands up and help me with my reviews, pass on some tips. He’s awesome.
You mentioned there that over the last season you stepped up and now you’re the starting Tighthead more often than not. What’s next?
I want to hopefully be able to improve on what happened last year. Obviously it was nice to start at the end of last year but I still think there is a good 50% more I can add to my game in terms of scrummaging and pushing myself a bit harder around the park. Dec and Les have been really good. They expect a lot out of you and they always push you to give them more so even though you may come off the pitch thinking you played a good game you come in on Monday morning and they’ll review everyone’s game pretty harshly and let you know there’s more in you.
For me personally I just want to keep hold of the shirt and do the best I can to improve and hopefully be one of the best if not the best tighthead in the Championship and put us in good stead going back into the Prem. But I’ll take it week by week and every week I want to make sure I’m doing my opposite number over.
That’s what we like to here. To close things out, we’ve got a random question from Allan Older on Twitter – what’s your favourite cheese?
Favourite cheese? Wow! I’d say Feta. On salad, on everything. I put it with my avocado in the morning, on burgers. I love it!
Thanks so much to Ollie for his time and don’t forget if you can’t make it to cheer on the boys against Ealing in person, the game will be televised on Sky! As always, this interview was brought to you in collaboration with @RugbyLI on Twitter and conducted by Matt Merritt.