The weather has turned from burning hot, to windy and chilly, the nights are drawing in and shops are inexplicably full of Christmas tat…. So it is well and truly rugby season. With Irish one and one so far in the cup and about to take on Bristol, we grabbed Barney Maddison to see how the boys are doing.
Barney, it was a tough loss against Harlequins last weekend, but there was a lot to be happy about in the way the team performed. How are you looking at it?
I think we got a lot out of it. There were a quite a few changes, it was only the second game of our season so there were a few hiccups, but there were a lot of positives to take from it!
For you personally, you’ve had a couple of run outs now and got some game time in, how’re you feeling?
Very good! Obviously with a much longer pre-season we could tailor it to what we needed to work on, so boys are still feeling pretty fresh going into games at the moment. It was really enjoyable and good for me to get some time.
In the cup it’s a real opportunity for younger players like Jack Cooke and Caolan Englefield to get a run out. It must be great for them and I’m guessing the rest of the team get a bit of a boost from that too?
Those boys train really hard and they’ve really grabbed those opportunities. Jack Cooke had a really good game, it just shows the work that goes on in the academy and that the coaches there put in with those lads.
It’s also an opportunity to bed in new signings of course and there’s a new lad turned up in your position. How is Ruan Botha settling in?
He’s a really good lad and it’s good to bring in more competition. It means I have to play and train harder and the same is true for him. Good competition is always important and he’s a great addition to the squad.
As we go through the cup it seems teams are approaching it differently, Gloucester fielded largely an academy side against us, Quins were a mix and Bristol will likely be the same. We end up against Sale who have been playing pretty much full strength teams so far. Does that help us going into the league as the competition seems to be scaling up with every game?
Definitely! Most teams haven’t had any pre-season games and are using these games to give their boys a run out.
We’re taking it pretty seriously. You don’t want to go into games thinking you’re not going to win so we’re going as hard as we can. We want to have a good squad, it’s not just about the 15 or the 23, we want to have competition for those places and everyone is keen to play, to impress. The more strength in depth you have, when it gets to those darker days in the middle of winter and you might pick up some injuries, you feel that players are ready to step up and there isn’t such a big difference.
And I guess that’s it, after such a long pre-season it must be good just to get out there and compete.
Oh yeah! There aren’t many players who will say they enjoy pre-season so we’re happy to see the end of it. The last couple of weeks before the cup games were getting a bit tasty actually, boys were really keen to play and compete!
Every player aspires to play against the best and the Premiership is probably the best of the competitions available. Which teams or players are you looking forward to lining up against?
I’m just looking forward to the opportunity of running out in the Prem as I haven’t played at that level before. It’s always been my ambition to play in the Prem so I just hope I get the chance at some point this year.
There’s no particular team, it would have been nice to see Newcastle as that’s where I’m from but I’m just looking forward to getting on the pitch and playing for Irish.
For all that we’re looking forward to the Prem most rugby fans are caught up in the World Cup at the moment. Are you getting time to watch the games?
They’ve been pretty good with training, between sessions at Hazelwood we watch games on the big screen.
We were watch Bobby Dice (Bryce Campbell) playing the other day, and we caught part of the New Zealand game today too.
The boys are really enjoying it, cheering for the Fijians and the Samoan boys that we knew last year and all the boys who will be coming across to join us later on.
The boys are looking pretty good out there. Until his citing Motu was really going well!
These things happen, that’s how Motz plays the game and he was looking really good until that big hit. He hurt himself doing it and it’s an area of the game that’s hotly contested…
There’s more competition in the row coming too as Adam Coleman has looked strong in his appearances too.
Yeah, he came off the bench the other day and went really well so as you say, more competition which is good!
Looking ahead to the weekend what are you expecting from Bristol?
It’ll be a tough contest. They were pretty loaded up last weekend and we’re expecting the same on Sunday. It’s more game time for us though and a chance to iron out some of our take aways from last weekend so we’re looking forward to it.
You know with Bristol they’ll look to play the ball so it’ll be nice to get out there on a good pitch and face off against them.
It’s a great stadium and they’ve got a really good brand of rugby so I’m excited. It’s the kind of game you want to be involved in!
One thing a I noticed on Saturday, Brad Davis joined us in the summer to shake up the coaching line up a bit and he was very vocal on the sidelines, even more so than our other coaches. Does that help you as players, getting that constant feedback?
Absolutely, any feedback is good. Skivs and Dec were doing the same the season before in their way. Brad is pretty vocal though, he’sa good coach so you want to listen to what he has to say. He gives the touch judges a bit of banter during the game too, which is entertaining!
Thanks for your time Barney, really appreciate it!
Ah thanks, and thank you to all the fans for their support so far this season too, I’m looking forward to seeing some of them up in Bristol!
Our thanks to Barney for his time, to the club for their support and to @RugbyLI for putting the interview together.