Breaking The Tension

Pre-season is a hectic time, whichever way you look at it. Players switch clubs, coaches scrap systems and start again, teams take stock of the season ahead of them.

Tension, too, is a huge part of preparation.

Particularly now, as the big kick off is only a few weeks away for many and warm-up games are well under way, a chance to vent frustrations presents itself. Contact sessions are venomous as players reintroduce themselves to full-contact sport and their squad rivals. Competition is the name of the game for many.

Tension can also be seen on the faces of coaches as the fear of failure sinks in. Some may be in a new division or working with untested players. New divisions may be forged next season and survival may cement a team’s place in the pecking order, both professionally and in the amateur ranks.

Life, as with the bounce of the ball, though, is capricious. You never can tell what unforeseen forces can stand in your way. This can either give rise to tensions or it can work as a catalyst.

Add venom and tension; competition and camaraderie, and then see what happens in the face of adversity.

“I think a couple of the boys are considering putting together a vigilante group!” London Scottish flanker Lewis Calder tells me. “Fortunately we have been unaffected by the riots and preseason has gone well.”

The scenes of rioting in London, and those in Birmingham, Manchester and Salford, have been horrific. However, one of the positives of seeing our country erupt into hooliganism and violence is that there must be a response to the tensions. The police do what they must, sure, but the community has a responsibility. Sometime it can even forge that sense of community.

It was heartening to see scores of people help with the mass cleanup operations. Unity is always great to see. Community is always great to see.

In perspective, sport serves as a distraction. It is one, however, that can help unite people and at least help them worry about something trivial. If sport is your life you are in the privileged position of being that force for unity and heartening those that are down with the story of your successes.

“We are under no illusions that it will be a tough season ahead, however everyone affiliated to the club is looking forward to this exciting challenge and it is great to have London Scottish back in the upper tiers of British Rugby,” concedes Calder.

What do you do when you see something tough coming? You pull together and work to survive.

“The club has worked hard to bolster both the playing and backroom staff in the off-season whilst investing in our facilities for the season ahead.”

Simon Amor’s men have a huge task staying in the English Championship, but they have the resources and enough experience in their coaches and others affiliated in the club to do so. It is whether or the handful of practiced professionals in their squad can guide their youngsters through a no-doubt physical season. Can new signing Mike Adamson be the kind of player that helps them shine?

The incentives for such toil are easy to see for Scottish. As part of a rebuilding phase that is starting to bear fruit they are back near the top of English rugby. They can consolidate, if the likes of Kenny Logan and the London Scottish’s investors are to be believed. They even get the joy (or unwanted distraction) of competing in the British & Irish Cup.

Scottish may play this down, but for their players it could be a chance to impress other teams and coaches, should they struggle in the Championship. The competition has grown a lot in three years, anyway.

Take one of our teams as an example. If rumours coming out of Ayr are to be believed, the sea-siders are set to focus a large aspect of their efforts and commitment on the B&I Cup, perhaps to the detriment of their domestic duties.

For Scottish, though, they will be focussing on every little moment of rugby. No distractions. Outside, on the streets of London, there are scenes of chaos. At Richmond there are scenes of controlled aggression and frantic preparation.

 “Just a couple more weeks of brutal preseason to get through!”

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Dundonian Alan has played rugby all over the world for various teams including Dundee High School, Heriot's and the Scottish Club International. Now writing from London he covers all issues international and unreported.