RUGBY: Thomas faces up to Chippenham challenge
CHIPPENHAM head coach Danny Thomas feels it will only get harder for the club to continue to punch above their weight in National Three South West.
Former Plymouth Albion skipper and forwards coach Thomas takes charge of the Allington Field for the first time competitively on Saturday as they welcome Gloucester’s Old Centralians for the opening league match of the season (3pm).
Thomas, 37, succeeded ex-Wales international Jason Forster, who ended his three-season tenure by guiding the club into the top six for the first time, in the summer and admits matching that legacy will prove enough of a task in itself for his young squad.
“It’s practically a semi-professional league that we are in,’’ admitted the Bristol-based coach, who also had spells with Taunton and Barnstaple.
“A lot of the clubs pay players and we’re not a club that is in that position.
“You will see a lot of ex-professional players coming down through the system and most of the teams seem to have recruited very well.
“We have as well and it’s our policy to improve our player base. It’s going to be a tough season and I haven’t set a target in my mind, but I would be happy if we could be in that mid-table area playing how we want to play.’’
Many of Chippenham’s matches last season were crowd-pleasing try feasts and, while retaining their attacking ambitions, Thomas said: “We’ve changed a few things in our playing style and hopefully that will rub off on the players.’
“We want a policy of scoring tries and we’re still going down that route because if you score four, not only to you get the bonus points, but the other side have to score a lot of points to beat you.
“There have just been a few tweaks which will probably take a bit of time to bed in, but there is continuity on the coaching side, with the likes of Dale (Burn, assistant coach) and Kevin Snape (senior playing chairman).”
The club’s development squad, who won the Dorset & Wilts title for a sixth year in a row last season, will also provide new faces for the first team squad, while the forwards benefitted from a recent scrummaging session with former Bath and England legend Graham Dawe, with whom Thomas worked at Plymouth.
“He’s a good friend of mine and volunteered to come up and I think that players found it very useful,’’ he added.
“The new laws mean it’s back to a more old style of scrimmaging and he knows all about that. Hopefully we’ll get him up there again this season.’’
Thomas admits the exploits of last season mean his side will be a target for Saturday’s visitors.
“They are an unknown quantity, having come up, but Chippenham finished well last season so we would be a scalp for them, so we have to make sure we go into the game with momentum’’ he said.
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