Ian Davies keen to challenge young Cornish Pirates squad at London Welsh
Cornish Pirates head coach Ian Davies expects to his young given a thorough test during their Championship clash with London Welsh this weekend.
The Penzance club are in the first season of a three-year plan to re-establish themselves as a force in English rugby’s second tier.
A lot has changed for both clubs since they last met in the 2011 Championship final, when Welsh overcame Davies’ men to reach the Premiership.
The Exiles, who were relegated from the top flight last term, currently top the Championship.
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Pirates going well in fourth place and are buoyed by two British and Irish Cup wins. But Davies said: “It will certainly be a step for us compared to the British and Irish Cup.
“They are top of the table and justifiably so. They have a strong squad, and even though they have chopped and changed their team since day one, they have always performed well in the Championship.
“Both sides are much-changed from when we last played them. We’re probably more so than they are, and even the guys were involved, there’s very few of them playing this weekend.
“It is a totally different focus for us. It is the first year of three for us now – it is not looking back or part of another cycle.
“For me and [assistant coach] Harvey Biljon, we did lose to London Welsh in 2011, but we’ve lost to a few teams over the years and this year is a new challenge for us.
“It is about trying to get these players and this group to move forward together so that they can all reach a Championship final and experience that, if not this year or next year, within three years.”
While Pirates were beating Ulster Ravens and Ayr in the Cup, Justin Burnell’s side were playing things a little safer during defeats to London Scottish and Pontypridd.
“It looked as though they didn’t have much of a focus on the British and Irish Cup, they very much want promotion,” said Davies. “We expect to see the full force of London Welsh on Saturday evening.
“At home, back in the Championship, they will want to come out and show why they are top of the table. For some of our younger players, it will be a massive learning curve but it is all part of their development.
“We feel things are going really well at the moment. We’re scoring tries and not conceding, we’re playing some good stuff. The boys are very positive and they are enjoying training and being part of the squad.
“That is what it tends to be like when you’re winning, the test will now come at the weekend when there’s a bit more pressure on us. London Welsh may dominate the possession a bit more but we’ve been on top over the last couple of weeks.
“We’ll see how strong we are in terms of depth of squad and where some of these young players fit in the playing spectrum.
“The next few weeks for us are really important, not just in terms of Championship points, but also in the assessment of the squad and players.”