James Sandford happy to repay Ian Davies' faith at Cornish Pirates
The quiet confidence building at Cornish Pirates is typified by new lock James Sandford.
The Ulster-born forward was one of five Pirates in the starting XV making their competitive debuts against Bristol, in the club’s Championship opener at the weekend.
While many gave the Cornish club little hope of beating the promotion contenders at Sandy Park, Pirates’ blend of new and old combined effectively in a 23-21 victory.
Sandford, who joined the Pirates in the summer from London Irish, scored a try, with fellow new signing James Tincknell scoring the other.
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“I can’t lie, I’m very happy,” said Sandford. “Since I came to the club from Irish, I’ve been really well looked after.
“It has been really welcoming. As far as I’m concerned, it is the most open and family-orientated club I’ve ever been around. The club tried to visit all over Cornwall during the pre-season and that has brought us all closer together.
“It is a really tight-knit bunch and we are really pleased to start the season with a win.
“I’m really happy with how things are going. It was a great win against Bristol and to get a wee sneaky try for myself wasn’t too bad either.”
Sandford praised the work of head coach Ian Davies in forging the players into a strong unit and for giving the new men belief.
“Ian has backed me and I wanted to put on a performance and do my best for him, as much as the rest of the boys,” said Sandford.
“It was really pleasing for us to come up with that result. Everyone talks Bristol up in terms of promotion and we’re sitting back and doing our own thing – we’re happy to have the underdog tag. It takes the pressure off, we can just concentrate on our own game.”
Another team of potential title contenders, Leeds, visit Mennaye Field on Friday night for the Pirates’ first home game of the season.
Sandford said: “The next one is Leeds and we are just looking forward to that.
“Leeds are a great outfit and they are going to be up near the top at the end of the season. Again, we will just do our own job and focus on ourselves.
“I’m a big fan of Friday night rugby. Coming from Ulster, it was always Friday night rugby and it creates a great atmosphere.
“We are really looking forward to it under the lights. We had a good run-out on a Friday night against the Cornwall Select in pre-season.
“It was a great occasion and I’m hoping we get the supporters there on Friday.”