Ward ready to put Championship lessons into practice
Ealing Trailfinders Director of Coaching Ben Ward is confident that his team can avoid repeating their first season in the Greene King IPA Championship, when they return to the second tier of English rugby in September.
Ward was part of the team that was relegated by a point on the last day of the 2013-14 season, but he and his team of coaches have been preparing hard since the end of the National 1 season to ensure they maintain their status come April 2015.
Ward’s side will play in the Championship for the second time in their history having won the National 1 title with 136 points, nine more than their nearest rivals Rosslyn Park.
“I think we’ve brought in more experience here, hopefully some leadership, a bit of quality and some real match-winners, ” Ward said. “What we’ve really looked for is the personality of the guys; I think we’ve got a tight-knit bunch of guys and hopefully we’ve now got a nice tight-knit squad and anyone coming has to fit into that.
“It’s where we wanted to be. Our aim last season was to try to be promoted and we did that.”
Ealing Trailfinders broke their own points record in winning the National 1 title and having lost only three times on their way to the title, they are a club that is used to winning.
However, with the likes of Bristol, London Welsh, Yorkshire Carnegie and London Scottish among next season’s rivals, there is an awareness that wins will be harder-fought in the coming season.
“If you go into any league you want to try to push on and finish as high as you can, ” Ward said. “Every game you go into to you want to win, but the reality is if we’ve done better than last time, then we’ve stayed up and that is a success.
“As a club we want to be among the Championship clubs and try and build on that, but the first thing is to stay in the league and build as a club.”
Two seasons ago Ward was head coach and fly-half under then Director of Rugby Mike Cudmore and he believes the club have learned the lessons of that season.
It took the team some time to find their feet and they went 11 matches defeated without picking up a bonus point. Once they did gain their first win the side enjoyed victories over the likes of Nottingham, Plymouth Albion and Jersey as they came narrowly close to maintaining their Championship status.
“You need a good pack; you have to have a pack to win the ball, ” he said. “It is very much set-piece led in that league. That’s not to say that teams don’t chuck the ball around, because they do, but you can’t chuck it around without the ball.
“I believe we have players who can excite and put on a good show, but to do that you need a forward pack that can win you the ball.”