What must newly-promoted London Welsh do to stay in the Premiership?
Andrew Binner looks at what London Welsh must do if the Exiles want to avoid an immediate return to the Championship
Use formula which worked in Championship
Head coach Lyn Jones needs to employ the same basic formula that saw his team achieve success in the Championship. Exeter Chiefs are proof that the gulf between the two divisions is perhaps not so drastic, and what worked in England’s second tier, combined with some sensible recruits should be transferrable to success in the Premiership. Leeds proved that brash recruitment is not good for team unity and consequently results. Ultimately members of a newly-promoted team have to rely on their character and spirit as much as any new recruit to stay in the top flight.
Gavin Henson was a shrewd capture by London Welsh. The Wales centre divides opinions, but that said, the flamboyant centre is undoubtedly one of the most gifted players of his generation and thrives in the spotlight. At Toulon and Saracens, he was just another star that had to, quite rightly, battle for a place in the side. However, at the Exiles, Henson will start at his preferred inside centre position if fit and he will be the focus of attention. At 30, he should be in the prime of his career and we may just see a return to the form of old if Jones can control his new centre’s temperament – something that should be more achievable due to his previous work with Henson – he is also away from the big cities of Southern France and London. Former Worcester Warriors back Tom Arscott also falls under this category of sensible recruitment as players like these can use their experience of the big stage to help guide some of the younger and less experienced members of the London Welsh side through their debut campaign.
Play attractive rugby but remain realistic
With a new home away from their Old Deer Park faithful, they will only be able to attract crowds and intimidate opposition through scoring tries. They must play with controlled confidence and have faith in the abilities of their players that have taken the club so far in recent seasons. As much as everyone would like to see a fairytale win against Leicester Tigers in front of a sellout Welford Road crowd, while not totally beyond the realms of possibility, it should not be the primary aim of this team and their fans. Welsh must look to quickly establish a dominance and culture of success at their new Kassam Stadium home where teams will know they will have to be at the top of their game to compete. Aside from that, the Exiles must look to attack other teams in transition like Sale Sharks, Gloucester and Bath – all of whom have experienced huge changes both on and off the pitch during the off season.