- Change of climate no handicap for Counties coaches
- Counties aim to build on sound start before clash with Spain
England Counties may have launched their three-match tour to Spain in contrasting climatic conditions, but for coaches Dave Baldwin and Jan Bonney it has been sunshine all the way.
Heavy rain blighted the initial get-together on the Imperial College sports grounds at Harlington, but the challenging weather conditions simply enhanced the calibre of the opening session. In Madrid conditions were much more seasonal, a situation the squad used to demonstrate their talents even more effectively.
"I was very impressed with the way the lads performed on coming together for the first time in London," said Forwards Coach Dave Baldwin. "They settled into the work with surprising ease and even though the heavy rain challenged both their handling technique and their application, they all came through exceptionally well."
A warm evening session in Spain, followed by bright sunshine today, also brought approval from Backs Coach Bonney, who said: "Even at this early stage, we are well ahead of where we normally are and now we have to build on that good start."
A new set of faces and a familiar challenge – welding them into a working unit for Saturday’s opening game against a Madrid Select XV – is meat and drink to the coaching pair, who relish the team-building challenge.
"What I’ve learned over the years is that you need to find out quickly what players are about," Bonney continued. "Are they going to be led in training by me or are they going to start making decisions themselves and drive the agenda rather than following it.
"Some players are just happy to be here and need structures putting in place. They will follow our blueprint, whereas others will arrive full of confidence and take responsibility for situations. For the coaches it’s a case of adapting to those circumstances."
Coaches looking for next star
Bonney has another take on the experience of being involved with a new group of players. He said: "I always find it exciting to see if we can find the guy who is going to make that next step up when they leave us. A number of the players have gone on to make the Premiership and beyond and I’m sure there will be guys in this squad who will do the same."
Baldwin, who plans to hand over the reigns after this trip, added: "I know it’s difficult from the outside looking in, but when you’re on the inside you see definite benefits. You see players going back to their clubs as better, more experienced players, more seasoned players who have been out of their comfort zone and put into a challenging representative environment.
"The players to a man have all been exceptional and really bought into it and made it a positive experience for all the people involved.
"We are now in an era, of course, where players are at a level where they expect high standards from representative rugby and they are rightly demanding in what they are looking for from us. This is that environment and if you ask any former Counties player what they think, I am sure that they will endorse that view."