Rugby is back, for an exceptional season
The year 2020 has been far from what we expected, but things are slowly beginning to move back towards circumstances we once knew as normal.
This is also the case with sports organisations training together.
The government gave clear directions on how to make practice as safe as possible, and it is still very strict in May. No contact, no more than ten people training at once, and similar limitations.
- Safety first, but these limitations prior to June were not ideal for rugby, so we decided that training will be done individually until the start of June, says Shamrocks Head coach Casey Dent.
From too start of June, the Shamrocks are re-starting their pre-season, which originally started in January. This season will be a real test for every team. Normally the teams have about 5 months to train and prepare before the season kicks off. Now there is less than 2 months.
Helsinki Rugby Club are coming to town on July 18th
Photo: FSC MEDIA/RFL
“No reason to waste energy on things we can’t affect”
The Finish Championship season is (like so many things at the moment) full of question marks.
What we know is that the amount of games is cut in half, so a round robin will determine which 3 teams continue to the play offs, with the winner going straight to the final and 2v3 playing a semi-final for the second spot in the final.
We also know that the games will be played without spectators, as events with more than 50 people are not allowed.
The season standings may also be affected by potential cases of corona within the teams. so it's a very exceptional season in many ways. - For now we can only focus on our job, which is getting the team ready for the season. No reason to waste energy on things we can’t affect.
Old Town Shamrocks are set to start the season at home against Helsinki Rugby Club on July 18th.
- When the delayed season was launched, we were suppose to start playing on August 8th. But that would have meant playing all the games in one row, with no free weekends in between games, Casey Dent explains.
- We managed to move a few games to the end of July. It is extremely tough on the body to play 6-8 weekends in a row, so this gives us a bit less time to prepare, but more time to recover during the mid season games.
Changes to the squad 2020:
The Shamrocks squad is going to be a bit different to last year. The team lost Assistant coach Daniel Kerr who moved to Germany. Vice captain and long term Shamrock Jesper Lindblad was also forced to hang up the boots due to a shoulder injury but will continue as scrum coach.
A few players are also uncertain about their availability this season due to injuries and other obligations such as military service.
Daniel Kerr left OTS for a coaching job in Germany
But there are also good news to the playing squad.
Tommy Gali Valls will return after spending a year in France playing rugby.
Tommy is one of the players from OTS junior program, and is finally old enough to play for the men’s team.
Tommy brings a lot of physicality to the second row and is a great option in the lineout.
There will also be a few other new players joining the squad. But more about them later.
Seven Teams, One champion
The teams battling for the championship of 2020 are Turku Eagles, Helsinki Rugby Club, Helsinki Warriors, Jyväskylä Rugby Club, Kuopio Rugby Club, Old Town Shamrocks and Tallinn Kalev. - Once again, there are no easy games. Anyone can beat anyone in the championship, and the season will be decided by small margins. It’s a tough schedule with so many games squeezed in to a short period of time, but it’s the same for everyone, says team Captain Petter Larsen.
The Shamrocks finished 4th last year, just missing out on a semi-final spot. But one more loss would have sent the team into the relegation/promotion match against the winner from division 1.
- That says a lot about how tough the competition is, Larsen adds.
Kuopio Rugby Club returns to the championship after a one year spell in division one
Photo: Studio Lindell
“Our biggest strengths are in attack”
Coach Casey Dent is determined to get the team back into winning ways.
- The biggest improvement must be in the defensive line. The tackling must improve massively from everyone on the team if we are to fight for a playoff spot. Our biggest strengths are in attack. During the last few years we have started and finished the games very well. But too many times there’s been about 40-50 minutes in between, when we haven’t had the discipline required to win. If we want to become a winning team, we need to have the discipline required to play 80 minutes.
"Supporters can still enjoy the games"
When it comes to spectators, or the lack of them due to the corona restrictions this year, the club is working on a way to stream the games live, so supporters can follow the season. Then again anything is possible, as there government may ease the restrictions prior to mid July when the season is scheduled to start.
Club chairman Oscar Lökfors is saying the supporters will be able to see the games live regardless.
- It’s very important that our supporters can still enjoy the games. And with the technology we have today it should not be a problem, even if the restrictions would be the same all season.
18.7 OTS - HRC
25.7 OTS - KUOPIO
8.8 KALEV - OTS
29.8 EAGLES - OTS
5.9 JRC - OTS
12.9 WRC - OTS
19.9 SEMI-FINAL (3 v 2)
26.9 FINALS DAY (1 v winner of semi-final)