At Wednesday’s Aviva Premiership launch, Jamie Hosie caught up with London Welsh Director of Rugby Justin Burnell to get his thoughts on being back in the big time.
JH: Let’s start with the obvious – it’s been an incredibly busy summer in the transfer market for you, with a whopping 26 new signings. Is it ever a worry that the team will find it difficult to gel as a result?
JB: No, not at all. The nicest part is we created a good environment and good place to work last year, and I always find it easier that when new faces come in, they have to adapt to the current system instead of everybody trying to adapt to each other. It would be different if there was a new group of management, new facilities, as well, but there isn’t, so it’s been pretty straightforward to be honest with you.
JH: Do you find when that many people do arrive in such a short space of time, you do have to focus more on team building and team work during pre-season, or does that just come with the rugby?
JB: That’s a good question actually – yeah I think we’ve done a little bit more of that team bonding element this summer, than we did last year. Because last year we were just a pretty tight bunch we had bigger things to worry about, but because a lot of that is currently in place this year we perhaps have to worry a little bit more about the other stuff, you’re dead right.
JH: A bit more socialising then?
JB: Yeah, quite a bit of socialising!
JH: Last time when London Welsh came up to the Premiership there was the whole stadium saga, leaving you with inadequate time to prepare perhaps – do you feel you’re better prepared this time around?
JB: Oh we’re much better prepared, yeah. When you think of Kelvin [Byron, London Welsh Deputy Chairman], Bleddyn [Phillips, Chairman] and Steve [Lewis, Director of Rugby], they were all very heavily involved the previous time we were in the Premiership and they’ve learnt a hell of a lot from that experience, and that has been absolutely vital to myself.
JH: Piri Weepu is a fantastic signing not only for London Welsh but for the Premiership as a whole – how has he been getting on since arriving?
JB: He’s been what I expected – he’s just very humble, he’s not in your face, keeps his head down and works hard. His skill set is phenomenal and he gives everybody that respect that we’re all used to, and that’s a big thing for us at London Welsh. We always feel that if somebody’s nice to you, you’re nice to them, and he’s certainly been nice to us, so it’s an easy crossover.
JH: And he’s definitely registered, yeah?
JB: Ha! Yes, he’s registered.
JH: Last one then. It’s always difficult for the newly promoted club to set targets, but you’ve got to be looking beyond just survival, haven’t you? That would be a pessimistic outlook.
JB: Yes, definitely. If you go into that mindset from day one, of just hanging on, that’s going to be a long old ten months. We’re not about that, we’re all about competing.
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images