Coach Harvey Biljon welcomes former Wasps team-mate Josh Lewsey to Cornish Pirates
THE announcement this week by the Cornish Pirates that former England and British Lions wing Josh Lewsey is to take over as a temporary replacement for Rod Coward in the chief executive role surprised everyone, writes Dick Straughan.
While there had been much speculation regarding Coward's expected relinquishing of the role, which was confirmed on Tuesday, the news a little over 24 hours later that 36 year-old Lewsey was to take over as an acting CEO/Performance Director, has provided the Cornish Pirates with a timely boost ahead of the end of the RFU Championship season and British & Irish Cup quarter-final tie with Munster.
Lewsey may only be joining the Pirates for a six-month term, on a part-time and consultative basis, but he brings not only a wealth of rugby experience but also a solid grip of finance and commerce in the business world.
He retired from professional rugby in 2009 after a career spanning 55 appearances for England, including the two World Cup finals of 2003 and 2007, in which he scored 22 tries.
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Capped three times also by the British & Irish Lions during their 2005 tour to New Zealand he forged his name at club level predominantly with London Wasps scoring 255 points in 186 appearances during their glory years in which they enjoyed so much success both the Premiership and the Heineken Cup.
Also a member of that same Wasps squad was Cornish Pirates Assistant Coach Harvey Biljon who expressed delight at the appointment of his former team mate at the helm of the Mennaye Field club.
"We knew there was change happening at the Pirates but didn't know who the new CEO was going to be so it was a really pleasant surprise when we heard Josh had taken over," he said.
"It's a really nice boost and I'm sure that these will be exciting times. He will inject new energy into the club and I'm sure he will be a key part of how we move forward now."
Biljon himself spent seven years as a team-mate of Lewsey and is now nearing the end of his fourth season at the Pirates. And while Lewsey does not officially take over his new role until next month he is due at the club next week to meet the coaching team. Biljon knows exactly what people can expect.
"Josh is a very good person and will bring fantastic attributes to this club," he said. "He is very focused, very driven and will certainly put his stamp on things. He is always motivated to make sure that whatever he does is a success."
"He has been a professional rugby player at the highest level and he has transferred that same work ethic into business since he stopped playing."
As the Pirates near the end of a tough injury-ravaged season, Biljon cited the words of his former club coach at Wasps and now Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards. He said: "Shaun used to tell us that out of adversity comes opportunity. We have had a tough season here but we have stuck at it."
"By appointing Josh, Dicky (Evans) has shown how serious he is. We have still got a dream of the Stadium and we want to be a Premiership team. This shows the endeavour to develop, drive on and keep moving forward."