In his opening column for Talking Rugby Union, Jersey Reds‘ Charlie Beckett discusses *that* night against Russia and the upcoming Championship campaign.
Unbelievable. That Tuesday night in Moscow has to be up there as one of my career highlights.
No doubt. To be honest, Moscow is not somewhere I thought I would ever visit, but what a beautiful city it is. One of the best things about rugby is the places it takes you to and any opportunity to go to a country that I’ve not been to before and play rugby is really exciting.
There was definitely an added sense of excitement that we weren’t just playing any team, we were playing a national side. A national side who were deep into their preparations for going to the Rugby World Cup. We knew that they’d be taking the game very seriously and I think it would have been disrespectful of us if we hadn’t taken the game equally as seriously. So, we prepared for it like we would any game in season.
I wouldn’t say that people were against us going into that game, but I do think that in a game between an international team going to a World Cup and an English Championship side, it's safe to say that most people would back the international side. We very much went into the game as underdogs, but we didn’t let that affect us and there certainly was not any chat about that amongst the squad.
Russia were very, very physical and you knew that you were in a seriously tough game from the start. They had a lot of very big, strong, quick men that were very hard to stop in full flight. That physicality could be seen very clearly in the way that they play. Lyn Jones has got them playing a very direct style of rugby that can be very tough to stop and I have no doubt they will cause the likes of both Scotland and Ireland issues over 80 minutes in their pool games at the World Cup.
Yeah, fair play, tonight was pretty special, will remember this one for a while ???????? https://t.co/JGrjeZytkY— Charlie Beckett (@Charlie_Beckett) August 27, 2019
As much as they were a good team and very tough to beat, you could tell that, perhaps, they had a few players that didn’t have as much rugby experience as the majority of the players in our squad. That is probably where we had the edge I’d say. We’ve got a lot of experienced players who have been playing professionally for a long time and with rugby still being a developing sport in Russia we probably had the edge on them tactically over the course of the game.
It was obviously a great win for us which I know turned a few heads in the rugby world and I’m sure that Luc Jones is going to enjoy having the bragging rights over his Dad this Christmas, but it is always dangerous to read too deeply into preseason games. Ultimately, it is probably the performance that is more important than the result in these games because there are a lot of different factors to take into account.
You’re coming in off the end of a preseason, which is tough with a lot of fitness and more running than you would do during in season training, so there might be a little tiredness, but also, you haven’t quite got your match fitness yet and there are new boys playing together for the first time and developing new partnerships. Having said that though, I think we can take a lot of confidence from our performance against Russia, and I'd be lying if I said we didn't all very much enjoy the win, some boys more so than others...
There are still a lot of things that we need to improve on and a lot that needs to get better, but there was a lot in our review that we were happy with and it is a very positive way to be entering the new season.
The season ahead of the Reds
When I went on the Talking Rugby Union Podcast with Sarah at the end of last season, I made no bones about it: we were disappointed not to finish in the top three last season. With five games to go, we gave ourselves a really good shot to finish up there and, unfortunately, we lost our last three games and it cost us that top three finish.
This season is a completely different kettle of fish. We’ve got Newcastle who will be very strong coming down from the Prem. They have a lot of good players, but so many other teams have recruited well too. Ealing have perhaps the strongest squad, on paper, that they’ve ever had, Coventry have recruited really well, Luke Wallace is going to be a nightmare at the breakdown for them, Bedford are always up there and Pirates are going to be pretty good as well, especially at home where they are always very tough to beat.
There is a lot of other strong teams that I haven’t even mentioned yet. The likes of Hartpury, Nottingham, Doncaster and London Scottish. These teams can all beat you on their day, so what I think you will see this year is a very competitive league with no easy games at all. Every Saturday we are going to have to turn up and be at our best to get the win we will be after.
That’s the exciting thing about the Championship though. It is an extremely competitive league in which every team, I believe, is capable of beating every other team. Also, in my opinion, having now played in the league for a year, the Championship doesn’t get the respect it deserves.
You just have to look at the number of players that have signed from Championship clubs to Premiership clubs over the last few seasons to see how high a standard of rugby is played in the league. In particular the number of players Premiership clubs have signed from Jersey. I know this is something that Harvey and the rest of the coaching staff are really proud of and a trend they are keen to continue, as well as one of the key reasons that Jersey is the ideal place for young players to come and play and impress.
All in all, it's been a tough but great preseason with an incredible trip to Russia, but I can't lie, I am not sad to see the end of it! I don't think I've ever felt this well prepared going into a season or ever been as excited about the squad I am a part of - Roll on the season.
Come on you Reds!