22.10.2002 Clubcall Interview 22/10/02
In an exclusive interview with the Pontypridd Rugby Clubcall this week, head coach Lynn Howells is given the opportunity to objectively assess the way the season has been going so far, and to look forward to the big clash against Cardiff come next week-end.
Following a defeat away to Leinster in the first game of the season, an impressive run of seven straight victories has set Ponty off on a roll ensuring progression in the Celtic League and the Parker Pen Challenge Cup. Lynn Howells however, keeps his feet firmly on the ground and realises that his team have not yet hit top form. "It’s been going well" says Lynn. "Probably, we've underachieved in a lot of our games, but have been lucky enough to get the results. The one performance that really pleased me was against Connacht when we went away from home to face a side who had not yet lost and we performed for the full eighty minutes. The biggest plus from that game was the zero on our opponents' part. It’s not very often that you can keep a side down to zero in the modern game, without conceding any kickable penalties or anything. In a different perspective, the two games against Roma then gave us a chance to try out some of the fringe players in the squad and they all came through very well for us".
Top form or not, the creditable results that Ponty have secured so far have led to a fair representation in the Wales senior squad selected for the Autumn internationals. As a former assistant coach with Wales himself, Lynn Howells would not wish to take any credit directly for his players' elevation to the international ranks.
"It’s certainly a good thing for the club, not so much for myself personally as a coach, but certainly so for the players. The boys have worked really hard, both in training and in the games that they have played. The biggest factor is that its a big plus for Pontypridd Rugby Club. Once again we've put up our hand against some of the bigger clubs, and have shown that we are well capable of producing young talent, and producing it up to international level as well".
The Ponty squad have been hard at work this week, preparing for the crunch Celtic League pool tie at home to Cardiff next Saturday. The capital city club, although not enjoying the best of starts to the new campaign, can still pose a real threat to Ponty's ambitions of securing a home draw in the next round of the competition. "They are certainly a difficult side to break down" says Lynn of the Blue and Blacks, "as we have seen, even though they are losing games, there are not many tries being scored against them. I think on Saturday evening, it will be something of a war of attrition, and could well come down to a kicking game - the team that concedes the least penalties will claim the result. It will be a big concentration game, where we will have to focus for the full eighty minutes, otherwise the other team will win".
With a few injury problems still outstanding amongst the Ponty squad, Lynn Howells will probably wait until the final team run out at Treforest on Friday before contemplating his selection for the Cardiff game. "We're struggling in one or two departments" says Lynn. "The big concern for me is over Duncan Bell, who looks doubtful to come through for the week-end, still struggling with a back injury, and that is a worry. Jonny Bryant's calf strain seems to be clearing, and everybody else is more or less fit, so its just a real head ache over Duncan - as it will affect not just our scrummaging but our line out play as well".
As the build up to the big game gathers momentum, it is predictable that the media will focus their attention on the prospect of Lynn Howells, and his outside half Neil Jenkins, pitting their wits against a former club in the shape of Cardiff RFC. Always the cool customer, Lynn remains undeterred by such speculation. "It adds a bit of spice to the press reports, but doesn't really affect myself or Neil. We're Pontypridd people through and through, always have been, and always will be. It’s certainly a big game for Neil, being a world class points scorer, he's bound to have a big influence on the game. But really what the media put on is a bit of spin, rather than something that affects a player or a coach as such. We are totally focused on the game against Cardiff. I know if we play to the best of our ability, there will only be one winner".
The full interview with Lynn Howells can now be heard on the Pontypridd Rugby Clubcall.
(c) Pontypridd Rugby Football Club Limited October 2002, PRFC Clubcall 09068 884512, Sponsored by Pontypridd Mobile Communications 01443 405555
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