The chance to interview my region’s head coach and captain was something I never thought I’d get. With a massive thanks to Rabo Direct, I got the opportunity to do so when I was invited to the Rabo Direct Pro 12 media launch in Glasgow, after winning their blog competition.
Rob McCusker strikes you at first as a quiet individual, but once the questions got rolling he was soon coming up with the answers, and the insight he gave into the workings of the Scarlets and what their aspirations are, was a treat to hear.
He was first posed with questions about the captaincy and what it means to him, how he would cope with it, and whether he’d have enough support from what is a relatively young squad around him. Here are a few snippets of what he had to say:
“It means a lot, partly to be asked by Simon… and I’ve been with the club for 8 years now, and there’s been a lot of good captains before me. So I’m honoured to be on the list of captains.
The boys are making fun of me for my grey hair, think I’ve gained a few more over the last couple of weeks! …. I can imagine it ramping up a lot once the season kicks off, but it’s been good so far. I’ve had a bit of stick, but nothing I can’t deal with.
….. We’ve got some older guys like Deacon Manu, don’t like saying old, he’ll kill me for that! But yeah definitely got enough people that I can turn to if I’m struggling a bit, but I know they’re behind me and that’s a help”.
Over the last couple of seasons, it’s been the forwards at the Scarlets that have been their perceived weakness but McCusker had strong words to say about that, and the impact that new forwards coach Danny Wilson has had on the squad.
“He’s had a good impact so far, put a lot more focus on the set piece. Scrums and lineouts we’ve been working hard. He’s very meticulous… we’ve put a lot of graft into these areas and he’s very particular about what he wants…. anybody who’s not up to scratch he’s got no problems in telling them so and kicking them out likewise”
This could be music to Scarlets fans ears, and added to that the identity of two of McCuskers’ players to watch this season.
“Sione Timani, I think he’s trimmed down, is looking hungry and I think he’ll have a good season and… Samson Lee has played particularly well over the pre-season”
Another aspect that this side has often struggled with is also the breakdown, and a slight grimace of acknowledgement crossed the captains face as he sought to provide answers to the problem.
“The coaches have been briefing us on what’s going to be reffed and what isn’t. With Danny, it’s another area he is looking at for us. We struggled in some aspects at some times of the year so we’re working hard to correct them so hopefully we’ll be able to sort out those issues”
It’s pleasing to hear that the Scarlets know exactly what the issues were that troubled them last season and that the coaching staff are on top of things to put them right. The seeming inability this side has to finish off half chances was something Simon Easterby also clearly felt frustrated by when the question was put to him on how the Scarlets can fix that problem.
“…. it’s certainly something that we’re aware of as a coaching group and as a playing group. We do create a lot and we don’t always make the most of those opportunities so I think that’s a combination of the players understanding and us as coaches giving the players a bit of structure that we don’t necessarily have to score off everything.….. but we take those chances when they come and make the most of the hard work we’ve done to get into good positions”
Easterby also acknowledges that his side face a tough start to the new season, but that there are positives that can be taken from that.
“….but what it does is give players and the coaches a real focus for that first block of four games, and knowing that if we can get a good start it’ll set us up nicely for the rest of the season”.
Easterby strikes you as an individual who knows exactly what he wants from his side and that he’ll put a team out that is as prepared as possible. Recruitment he acknowledged had been difficult, but with a couple more players due to come in it was something he seemed happy with. From the way he conducted himself throughout the media launch and through all questions thrown at him; I for one am feeling much more confident that the Scarlets are in the right pair of hands to take them forward.
Scarlets’ chief executive Mark Davies also had a special word to say for the supporters of the West Wales region.
“To the supporters I would just say that I am very proud of the fact that I think we’ve got the most committed supporters that you see anywhere….These are the people that make the difference because these are the people that make the recruitment …. possible at the end of the day, and that’s what keeps us going”.
It was an incredible experience, to get direct insight right from the Scarlets camp, and the professionalism, positivity and commitment that I was faced with leads me to believe that this side knows exactly where it’s going, knows just how much work they have to do to get there and that they know they have a strong support base that will back them all the way. There’s no doubt that it’s going to be a tough season in the Rabo Direct and the Heineken, but here is one Scarlets fan who is now safely assured that her region are going to be giving it their all.
For a full transcipt of the interviews, please visit http://www.scarletfever.org