Saturday, 08 May 2021

Prop excited by cup competition despite shoulder injury

RAMS’ Sean McDonnell-Roberts says there is “massive excitement” among the senior squad ahead of the National Cup.

While the prop won’t be able to take part himself as he recovers from shoulder surgery, he said the Old Bath Road side are chomping at the bit to get back onto the pitch.

He said: “There’s massive excitement after going from a point where we thought we’d have no contact rugby, no competitive rugby at all, and just training to train, now we say we’re training for that cup.

“There could be some great games. If every game is a local derby or a big rivalry, and other teams will have been training like us, it will be all on the day — one percenters will decide who wins.”

With the Government confirming a relaxation on the number of fans potentially allowed to attend games amid the coronavirus pandemic, McDonnell-Roberts believes some of the feelgood factor of the past few years can continue.

He said: “Just seeing people, touching base, finding out how they are, seeing what’s going on in their lives. All the small little things people took for granted, everyone’s just really excited about it.

“The weekends are something everyone misses and not just from a playing point of view — it’s about seeing the community the club brings together — there’s nothing like that.

“On a Saturday you can have hundreds of people supporting you, talking to you before and after the game but, equally, you can rock up on a Sunday morning and still be there at 5pm just watching rugby. There’s just such a buzz at the club and that one massive team we are.”

The senior squad returned to training this week and McDonnell- Roberts said one positive of his recovery means he won’t have another pre-season to get through.

He said: “It’s an exciting time because we had an excellent pre-season before we were told rugby wasn’t starting again, but it does mean our baseline fitness and strength — everything in terms of our physical conditioning — is going to be there as and when the rugby starts.

“It will just be a matter of fine tuning, getting that extra two per cent, but this season will be a good one no matter how much we can play and what format we play.”

Meanwhile, Rams’ chief executive Gary Reynolds said watching Jack Willis and Johnny Williams collide when England beat Wales on Saturday was proof local rugby “hits well above its weight”.

Former Ram and Forest School pupil Williams opened the scoring at Parc y Scarlets on his second international start and put in a fine performance.

Willis, who learnt his trade at Reading Abbey and went to Highdown School in Emmer Green, came off the bench and turned in another eye-catching display which included winning a turnover penalty which Owen Farrell slotted to push England 24-13 in front.

Berkshire is the smallest constituent body within the Rugby Football Union with 13 clubs.

They were also two-time quarter-finalists and after the competition was split into a Championship and Shield in 2016 and were runners-up in the latter in 2019 to gain promotion back to the top tier.

Reynolds says the county deserves tremendous credit. He said: “It’s remarkable. To have two local boys in the squads for an international with 46 players is incredible.

“At Rams, we are incredibly proud of what Johnny has achieved and I am sure Abbey are rightfully the same with Jack. They have done a great deal to help young players develop as have many other clubs in Berkshire.”

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