Interview with Plymouth College 1st XV Head of Rugby Richard Edwards and team Captain Josh Tolan

Plymouth College Head of Rugby Richard Edwards

In about five sentences give us an insight into your own rugby career from playing as a youngster to getting into the coaching role.

I have been Head of Rugby at Plymouth College for six seasons. I moved to Plymouth from Llandovery College where I was a housemaster and assistant First XV coach. I started coaching at Taff’s Well Rugby Club as player coach before I moved to Llandovery, where I coached all age groups before working for two seasons with the First XV. The last club I played for was Llandovery RFC.

One would suggest it has been a successful season for Plymouth College winning more games than you have lost, how would you compare it to seasons past?

This has been a good season with only one game lost in 17. We have also played some notable sides, such as Kirkham Grammar and Bryanston this season and good performances against those teams were particularly pleasing. We have been successful at First XV level for five seasons now and two seasons ago only lost one match against Truro College in the Daily Mail Cup. We lost that game 9-3 and they went on to win the competition. If you look at our archive results on the schools rugby website, you will see that we have enjoyed a good period of success.

You came perilously close to a Daily Mail Cup semi-final losing out to a well drilled Whitgift. How difficult is it coming back from such a defeat knowing the County Cup Final is just around the corner?

Not difficult at all. The players dealt with the disappointment well. For many, the cup final will be the players last opportunity to play together and they are keen to finish their rugby at Plymouth with a top performance. The county cup is a competitive tournament and we lost in the final last year. Many of those playing this year want to make amends for the disappointment they experienced in that match.

Most school rugby seasons end in December. How do you prepare when the majority of schools are no longer playing? Are you able to arrange extra fixtures?

We have had to adjust training somewhat and the lack of regular games has been a factor. However, Devonport Services in Plymouth were really helpful and allowed our boys to attend training with their colts before we played King’s Taunton in round 6. We were able to conduct a conditioned game during that session which helped knock off the rust after a six week layoff.

After what looks to have been a very long season for Plymouth College, do you see the 1st XV going that extra mile next season?

Next season will be interesting. We have some very able players coming through, but we look like being a young side with a number of lower sixth players making up the side. I believe we will still be competitive, but feel we are entering a 2 year cycle with the nucleus of next season’s team.

Do you have an exciting group of youngsters coming to pre-season after the summer?

Yes. We have a strong Under 16 squad and our Under 15s have developed well this last season. We have also got some standout players who will feature again. Charles Attis has been very good this season at full back for the first XV and will hopefully feature prominently for us next season. Similarly, John Mason has made massive progress this season and will be a key player for us in the future.

My old sports teacher always checked the rugby players GCSE results to see if they had made it to sixth form, are you the same?

August will be a little tense as some students waver about what to do at sixth form. Hopefully, most will make the right choice and stay at Plymouth College. The rugby department is active and we are touring South Africa in 2012, so that might act as an incentive for them to do well.

1st XV Captain Josh Tolan

In about five sentences give us an insight into your rugby life so far.

I’ve always represented Plymouth College at school level from the prep right through to the senior squad as well as my county team Devon which I have played for at four age groups: u15.u16 u17 and u18. In 2010 I also played for the Irish exile U18 team.

There have been some very good wins for the team this season against some very good sides, how do you think it went personally? Could it have been any better?

Personally it was a great experience playing along side some real top class players. Obviously all of us would have loved to have a longer run in the daily mail cup but because, for most of us, this is our last season for the college and I think what we have achieved will be something that we will always remember.

The weather played quite a disturbing part over December. Did this mean extra fitness work in the snow or were the mats in the sports hall brought out?

The weather had a big impact on us as two of our matches were cancelled and our Devon final match postponed due to frozen pitches but during this we were always willing to do more fitness anywhere but the mats were brought out a few times.

Did doing so well in the Daily Mail Cup bring your team much closer together as a group?

We have always had a good team bond as many of us have played in the same team when we first started playing rugby and doing that well in a major tournament definitely made the bond stronger.

Does the future for Plymouth college bode well where the big cups are concerned?

The fact that the format of the cup has changed benefited us a lot as it gives a school like us, who only have limited numbers to choose from, a more realistic chance to go far.

So Plymouth College is now a name that others should be keeping an eye out for?

We’ve always been a successful side through the years and with strong year groups coming through so what we achieve in the following years will be up to how willing the team is and how successful they want to be.

How many of your guys throw up before a match and can you explain why the nerves disappear as soon as that whistle goes?

I don’t think anyone throws up before a game but the nerves are definitely there. When the first whistle goes it calms many of us down because we know what we have to do and we always want to play our best, so carrying nerves round the pitch won’t make that happen.

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