Cornish Pirates: In my view by Dick Straughan
I WILL admit that I didn't travel all the way to leafy Sussex for this pre-season game as family matters dictated that I should be at the other end of the country instead.
Several people rightly told me that some things are far more important than work but I have to admit that there was still a part of me that wanted to be down on the south coast for a few hours last Saturday. And therein lies the conundrum of pre-season matches.
In terms of results there isn't a lot riding on the outcome in theory but in actual fact there is, because a winning dressing room is normally a happy one and success breeds success especially in terms of results.
Lose all your warm-up games and heads can sometimes go down while the fans become restless and ticket sales for the start of the league season take a hit. Even if you play well against tough opponents from higher leagues the physical battering sustained by players not quite match fit can be detrimental and so for the coaches getting it just right is a really tough balancing act.
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I liked what I saw of the new-look Pirates in their first run-out at Polson Bridge, but Ian Davies wasn't happy with everything at Worthing. He would have liked to have faced a tougher Raiders side and was frustrated with some of the errors his own charges made. That is his prerogative. He has to make sure everything is right.
As Chris Stirling once observed; "A coach in a job is a coach waiting to get fired." The pressure to perform is constant.
I'm not even remotely suggesting that anything like that is about to happen at the Mennaye Field, before I take any pelters. Far from it. But with rising expectation levels at the club so the pressure on the players and coaches increases and suddenly the games which, on paper at least don't actually matter, do become important.
Thursday's game against Saracens in London is a perfect example of how important a so-called warm-up match can be.
The Pirates are not expected to win. Saracens have stated their intention to field a strong team because the match is important to them too. It is a prestigious fixture at a high-end venue. It is a major opportunity for the Pirates to showcase their brand as they look to develop new revenue streams, sponsors and contacts and build for a potential Premiership push.
These are all irrefutable facts. So, if the Pirates do lose, as expected, to be fair, it is absolutely vital that they play well, give a good account of themselves, and keep the scoreboard as tight as possible. That blows the notion out of the water that there is no pressure in pre-season games and I believe that Ian and his troops will not disappoint.
Comparisons with that epic cup tie against Saracens in 2003 may be rather tenuous, but that level of intensity and belief, from what is a much better Pirates side now, could just make for an interesting evening in the City.
– Dick Straughan.