With a win against our biggest rivals on the first day of the season under our belt it felt like a good time to chat to another of our new signings and perhaps the stand out performer on the day. Matt Rogerson’s relentless carrying from the back row certainly caught the eye and Irish fans are hopeful for more of the same in the future. We caught up with Matt midweek to see how he felt about Ealing and to look ahead to the game against Nottingham.
So Matt, a good win at the weekend to start the season. How did it feel to cap your debut with a winning performance?
Yeah it was really good, I really enjoyed it. Obviously first outing of the season everyone is quite anxious to get out there and try to get a result out of it so there was a bit of nervous energy going around but we were happy in the end to get the result and I really enjoyed playing for the first time!
As you say, it was pretty nervy for the first 30 minutes or so. How difficult is it to manage those energy levels for the first game of the season? You must just be raring to get out there!
It was difficult, the game was televised and Ealing are going to be one of our main competitors for the season so we needed to really focus on our own roles & responsibilities and try to concentrate on ourselves. Once we weathered those first thirty minutes where they put a lot of pressure on us I think we started to settle into our rhythm a bit and that followed through in the second half where we started to pull away a bit and ended up getting the result which was a positive!
It was really noticeable in the second half that you were a different team. You looked comfortable and settled. Is the next step to take that and try to replicate it for the full 80 minutes?
Definitely. We’ve got to be able to put a full 80 minute performance out there. We’ve looked at that this week, in terms of how we started the first half compared to the second. As you mentioned, in the second half there was a marked improvement so we need to now be able to take that into the full 80 minutes virtually every week. That’s gonna start this weekend ahead with Nottingham.
You had a great game, lots of carries where you covered 106 metres. Would you say that this sort of carrying ability is the core part of your game?
Yeah, I really enjoyed the game and I hope that showed in how I was playing. Ultimately as a back row, and predominantly a number 8, a big part of what I do is carry the ball and one of my primary objectives is to make as many metres as I can for the team. Obviously that puts you in the thick of the action quite a lot so as long as I can keep getting my hands on the ball, keep going forward and hopefully put us on the front foot that’s ultimately what I want to bring. If I can keep doing that then hopefully that will put us in a good position to go out on the field, get scores and grind out results.
Now as I understand it you started your pro career with Sale after playing for Loughborough at university, is that right?
Yeah, I went to Loughborough and did a business degree while I was there. I played all my rugby in National 1 between the ages of 19 and 21 then being from up north I was known to Sale a bit anyway so I was fortunate enough to earn a contract with them coming out of university and spent a couple of seasons with them before going to Jersey and now to Irish.
That has to be one of the biggest changes in English rugby, just in terms of geography, going from Sale to Jersey! What was it like spending a year on the island?
It was a really cool place, I really enjoyed it. It was very different to what I was used to, coming out of the set up at Sale which was very much a large, well established Premiership club and then going to Jersey which was a lot more of a traditional sort of club but still growing, still developing, yet still have really professional roots in place. Like you say, geographically it was a big change going from Manchester to the island, but they’ve got a really good supporter base over there, I’m pretty sure the rugby club are the only professional outfit on the island so naturally they attract attention from the locals and they get great support. Equally the coaching, S&C staff, the physios, the board and the chairman there… I developed rally good relationships with all those guys and they were really supportive of me and that my time over there a lot easier. They put a lot of really good things in place to allow that squad to thrive and develop and that showed through as well. I think last year was the highest points tally Jersey have had as a professional side and they finished 5th in the league, narrowly off the top four. We were pretty pleased with that and it’s a testament to the really good professional setup they have over there.
You’ve been at Irish for a couple of months now, are you settling in okay? There’s a bit of a northern contingent now at the club which must be nice?
Yeah, obviously there’s Stevie (Myler), Ferg, Barney (Maddison) and me, so there’s a few of us which is good. But equally all the other lads have been really welcoming and friendly which has made it a really easy transition to come from another club and come into this environment. We all live quite locally, around Sunbury or in the Richmond/Twickenham/St Margarets/Kew area so we’re quite lucky that we get to spend a bit of time together outside rugby as well as in the club.
Do you think that it’s important to have that kind of cohesion in a team? Saracens get a lot of press for instance for their team trips and socials.
Yeah, massively! The culture that is instilled in a club is like the fundamental foundation for how it goes on the pitch at the weekend. The result and the game we put out there over 80 minutes is just a snapshot of the work that goes on behind the scenes, all the training and hard work and then the relationships surrounding all that. Without that culture, those relationships and friendships, it would be very difficult to have a team that functions well together so I think the more we develop that culture the better we’ll ultimately do and the more positive the results!
Some of the other players have talked about how important the work Declan Kidney and Les Kiss put in over this pre-season has been. How have you found them to work with?
Working with Dec and Les has been really good, as well as the other coaches like Dec Danaher, Skivs and the S&C (strength & conditioning) team have all been really attentive to the needs of the lads. The boys who were here already have all noted this has felt like a really intense pre-season, we’ve all got into really good shape and there’s been a lot of attention to detail which is a big thing that both Les and Dec drive. Having a knowledge of our game plan, really understanding and buying into what we’re about and how we want to play. I think the fact we’ve had a full pre-season with them and all the lads have bought into what they’re trying to do has ultimately made it pretty successful. We’re all in good shape and the knowledge we’ve gained is important. Now those pre-season games are under our belt and we’ve had our first game against Ealing hopefully things will gel even more and that all comes from what we developed over the last 12 weeks as our foundation.
So that all leads to the first home game of the season, we’re hosting Nottingham on Saturday at the Madejski, are you looking forward to running out there for the first time?
Massively! I’ve heard really good things the Madejski and I got a bit of an experience of what the fans are like on a match day against Ealing. I was really impressed with how everyone turned out, it was such a great atmosphere for us guys. The fact we had that away from home, to now go to the Madejski and experience that to an even greater extent is something that I’m looking forward to personally and I know all the lads are too. Hopefully we’ll be able to put out a big performance and get a result again this weekend!
Big thanks to Matt for taking the time out to speak to Matt Merritt/@RugbyLI!