- Wed Oct 09, 2019 2:56 pm
Well, here is the result of my scribbled notes. Very rushed and probably full of typos. Comments / corrections will be appreciated.
Notes on Supporters’ Meeting with Alan Solomons
8 October 2019
Alan Solomons opened the meeting by thanking supporters for their continuing support for the Club. He went on to repeat his vision, that the Club would be in the future a sustainable Top 6 Club. This would come about in the main by the development of academy players and he cited the performance the previous Friday when, in particular, the young and inexperienced Warriors front row stood up very well against Exeter’s experienced first choice players.
Indeed, the Academy was the future of Warriors and already there was a very decent team to be made from recent Academy graduates and current Academy members. He went on to say that in five years time those players would be the core of a side who could well win the Premiership – with the addition of other players of the appropriate standard brought in – but they would be the core.
He accepted that it would be very important to keep those players and during the Question and Answer session discussed the steps being taken to try to ensure that this happened. One way was to make players realise that their paths were not blocked by importing players into their position. He was as well asking all players to buy into the vision for the Club, a vision that they wanted to be part of. They did not want to miss out if the Club did succeed and they were not part of it. The point was also made about the pride locally born and bred players had in their local Club.
Alan emphasised during the evening how tight the Premiership had been last season. Warriors had won 9 matches whereas Quins had won only one more. They however had come 5th. The Premiership is relentless and attritional and Warriors did not yet have the level of experience throughout the squad to compete in every competition. The Premiership had to be the priority. There is real competition for places in the squad, and some fine talents emerging, but the younger players do lack experience.
In talking about the Premiership he did say that he felt it was unsurpassed in World rugby. Pro 14 players were rested regularly and their senior players only played a limited number of games each season. In the Premiership each player, if fit, was expected to play in each game but playing more than 27 games a season was just not possible, hence the need to have an extended squad of experienced players – something which Warriors did not yet have. Sometimes supporters did not understand the physicality of the Premiership and the need to keep players at their peak for the whole season. They could not be expected to play in every league and cup game. Newcastle had been unfortunate with injuries last season and had found that they did not have the resources to play in both the Euro Championship Cup and the Premiership at the levels necessary to avoid relegation.
Alan would not been drawn on where Warriors would finish in the table at the end of the season. So much depended on injuries but, he repeated, that if the level of commitment which had been apparent against Exeter was replicated throughout the season there was every chance of a Top 6 finish.
The coaches had trained the players in respect of tackling in accordance with the new laws and their interpretation by referees including the increasing incidence of red cards being issued. The safety of players was, rightly, a paramount issue and the Warriors’ coaches were emphasising the danger of, in a tackle, sliding up towards the necks of opponents.
The pitch at Sixways has been narrowed but only minimally and as a result of the installation of new infrastructure. It does not differ a great deal from other Premiership grounds and players have not really noticed any difference. The Quins pitch is narrower than 6 Ways but that does not inhibit their style of play.
Tighthead resources were problematic because of injuries and steps were being taken to find a solution.
The Operations Team were working on the problems with the floodlights. There had been criticisms but the players had not reported any difficulties. Balls had been dropped because of the pressure from the opposition not because of the lights.
There had been incidents in other sports where players’ behaviour had been poor and widely reported in the Press and Social Media. Alan did not believe that there was a problem at Worcester. Work was done in the Academy to ensure that all players had respect for each other and the wider community. Players understood that they were expected to follow the culture of integrity, altruism and professionalism. That culture ran right through the Club. Players in the senior Academy were treated in exactly the same way as members of the senior squad. They trained together.
The mentoring programme was working well with each Academy player assigned to a mentor. They would meet on a regular basis and also review the Academy player’s games whether playing for a Warriors’ side or on loan elsewhere.
Jamie Shilcock is a talented player who did very well at 15 against Exeter. It has been difficult for him to get enough game time at 10 in the past, his preferred position, but he is a natural 15 with considerable attributes. He will be given every opportunity to develop.
Alan was noncommittal when asked about Rory Duncan’s situation, just saying that “there was a plan in place”.
The team for each game was picked first and a captain appointed for that game. The Club Captain was not an automatic pick.
There was a problem with away games. All too often the initiative in the first 20 minutes had been taken by the home team and Warriors were very often having to play catch up. When the momentum changed in their favour it was often too late. The coaches were now putting great emphasis on the first 20 minutes in their training. Home games were a different matter. Players were in familiar surroundings and the body of support makes a considerable difference. Warriors though must overcome the away problem although Alan did say that Saracens had won only 5 away games last season.
Alan did think that ring fencing would help the national team. All too often the fear of relegation resulted in the buying in of players from abroad. Ring fencing would help the development of English players.
In responding to a question as to who would be selected to play against Leicester in the first Premiership game, Alan said that his mind was open as regards selection. The performance of some players the previous Friday had not been expected and there was great competition for places.
Alan did not comment, when tempted from the floor, to comment on the Saracens cap situation but he did emphasise his respect for what they and Exeter had achieved. He had high respect for both clubs mentioning Saracens’ emphasis on young English players.
Questioned about Warriors’ kicking game and how often the ball was given back to the opposition Alan said that teams which won competitions kicked a great deal. Warriors attempted to play a balanced “all court” game but decision making was so important as was the skill in execution. He admitted that aerial skills against Exeter were abysmal and improvements were required. Territorial possession was a very important part of the game and kicking was done for that reason but it had to be executed properly and correctly in the context of the game.
The coaches ran regular skill sessions at the beginning of every practice with post match reviews pointing out mistakes made and remedies available.
The consistency of refereeing was mentioned and Alan stated that the referee must be respected at all times. He did contribute to post-match reviews but rarely were losses the referee’s fault. Players must learn from the referee during the game as to why he was making the decisions he was and play accordingly. The breakdown was in particular a very difficult area to referee.
Consistency in Warriors’ performance was the natural next question and Alan acknowledged that it had been a problem. One factor may have been in the past that for certain places there had been little competition and that there were automatic choices leading to some players having “easy” games. He was looking to generate the consistent aggressive attitude that New Zealand players showed at all times at Warriors to which would be added high standards of preparation.
Alan revealed that he had contacted Ed Fidow after his disciplinary problems in the World Cup. He is a relatively raw talent and Alan acknowledged that there was work to be done. That said, he looked forward to the competition for places on the wing in the coming season.
Alan is not a believer in sending messages onto the field with water carriers believing that the players should be capable of thinking for themselves. That is not to say that sometimes the water carriers communicate their own messages!
Finally the question was asked as to whether it might be useful to hold meetings for supporters to be kept up to date with changes in the laws so that they could appreciate better what was going on during matches. It was agreed to give this due consideration.