As preparations begin for the new season Coleraine Rugby Club welcomes two new coaches.
Stevie Ritchie and Richard Beggs come to Coleraine with many years of experience as players and coaches, and they are looking forward to getting to work with the club. Training starts this weekend, Saturday, 14 July, with an informal session and barbeque at 1.00pm and pre-season proper starts the following Tuesday, 17 July.
Stevie comes with an impressive playing history at Ballymena, Instonians, Ulster and as part of the touring side with Ireland. The former hooker has coached at Coleraine Inst, Harlequins, Malone, and Limavady.
Richard is a former Coleraine player and has also played for London Irish and City of Derry. A Portrush man and former Coleraine Inst player, he has been coaching at the school for the past 14 years and in charge of the First XV for the past three.
Both coaches are looking forward to their new roles.
Speaking on Friday Stevie said: “We are getting geared up for the start of pre-season training and we are really looking forward to the challenges of the new season.
“Coleraine has lost some players to senior clubs but we wish them well and look forward to welcoming them back again in the future. Even with that we have a lot of quality players at the core of the squad.
“It’s great that we have Kenny Calladine as captain and influential players like David Andrews and Nial Irwin staying at the club. We have Paul Roxborough, Jonny Henderson and Neil Patterson back in action and a lot of other great players staying, giving us a strong basis for development.
“On top of that we have quite a few new signings to bolster the squad. All in all, even at this early stage, things are looking good for the season.”
Richard outlined the plan for training. He said: “The Firsts had a good season last year and the Seconds did really well. A lot of those players are going to be in a position to contend for places in the Firsts and Seconds right from the start. It means there is going to be a lot of competition for places in the squad.
“So that we have the best chance for all the teams we will be following the same training regime across the squad, so that there is a consistent style of rugby and players can easily move between teams if needed.
“It means there will be a lot of competition for all positions. It will not be a closed First XV. All players are starting out level and the best will get the starts.”
The coaches are looking for effort at training. Stevie said: “For now we want to see a good turnout for training and commitment to training. We want to see people fighting for their places.
“We want to keep people interested so there will be variety to training. We want to stimulate players and keep them involved.
“More than that, we want to see people enjoying themselves. Rugby is a leisure activity and players need to enjoy what they are doing.
“The first step is a bit of informal training on Saturday, 14 July, at 1.00pm. We would love to see all players - old and new - there and we will be having a bit of fun, five-a-side etc and then a barbeque to get everyone back together again.
“The following week we get into pre-season proper with training at 6.30pm every Tuesday and Thursday.”
The coaches have this challenge. “We want to see everyone down at training. Old members, new members, those with all skill levels. If you are coming back to the game or even if you just fancy taking up the sport, you will receive a warm welcome. Just come down on a training night and speak to the players and coaches.”
Richard said: “We have a programme of pre-season and early season games already arranged and some matches will be starting from as early as mid-August. So get in early and join the fun.”