Ebbw Vale head coach Greg Woods talks to Last Word on Rugby about how his side’s pre-season efforts have gone, and how pleased he is with the youthful squad ahead of the 2019/20 Indigo Group Premiership.
Productive pre-season for the Vale
Discussing his sides pre-season efforts – which have gone on for around two months – Greg Woods said, “It’s been really productive. We had a high turnover of players from last season to this so pre-season was important to embed the local talent we’ve invited in.
“We had to do a lot of work organization wise due to the turnover of players, to get players up to Premiership intensity.
“I was really pleased with the work rate and effort throughout the summer.
“I never get too carried away about pre-season games but I was pleased with the three wins. We stepped it up against Bury St. Edmunds, which we needed to, in the last fixture.
“The boys have put themselves in with a shot of starting against Newport.”
Greg Woods’ message to younger players
The high turnover of players has meant the ‘Steelmen’ have had to bring in a crop of local youth.
Explaining the process and what his message has been to those player Woods explained, “It’s a huge opportunity for them. A lot of them are local, so to put on the jersey of their town they’re from is going to be a big moment for them.
“What I’ve said to them is just grasp it. They’ve worked hard in training and done all we’ve asked of them. You can never be overconfident going into the first game but I was pleased with the preparation.”
Indigo Group Premiership: Return of 12 team format
With the league dropping back down to 12 teams for this campaign a new challenge has been set.
Discussing the competitive nature of the league the Ebbw head coach said, “Every game is going to be ultra-tough. Even when we don’t win them we have to come away with something and that’s a sign of a competitive league.
“We know the task we’re undertaking, it’s going to be tough but we’ve got to get into the groove as soon as we can.”
Greg Woods highlights Ebbw aims for the season
Looking ahead to the new season Woods’ aims are set out. He said, “I want us to be really competitive at home and target all our games there. Then we’ve got to go on the road and pick off wins.
“That mentality has always served me well in the past and I think we’ll need it this year more than ever.
“It starts on Saturday – Newport at home (see below image). It doesn’t come any bigger and we’ve got to make sure we’re accurate to match our physical intensity.”
Ebbw Vale operating ‘under the radar’
Losing a few key names has pushed Ebbw Vale down the charts in terms of the bookies odds. Woods believes this will be a good thing for his side, explaining “It’s no secret that some of our big-name players have gone.
“I’m fully supportive of how we’ve done it as a club, to be more sustainable.”
“We have to live within our means and sometimes going under the radar is better.
“Anyone who knows Premiership rugby knows our core group of players are still there and they have a lot of wins under their belt. Hopefully, they can help the younger players settle in really quickly. I’m really happy with the makeup of the squad.
“Like any coach, I don’t want any injuries but our starting 15 can compete with anyone in the league. For us, it’s about getting off to a good start and there’s no bigger way than a Gwent derby.”
Ebbw Vale start their 2019/20 Welsh Premiership season on September 7.
“Main photo credit: Mike Jones / Replay Images”