MOST coaches in the Top 14 have around another ten days left of summer break before we return to pre-season on a phased basis.
The forthcoming campaign is one I have targeted for accelerated progress since I arrived in La Rochelle over two years ago. There has been a considerable exodus of players this summer, 14 in total, and an influx of players Stade Rochelais management team has identified in terms of progressing the sort of rugby we want to play. With that, of course, comes the self-imposed pressure of knowing that these are our signings as the director of rugby and his key backroom staff. It puts judgement under the microscope.
One of the new arrivals is Ultan Dillane from Connacht, a player I have admired for some time. I know from talking to him that he is mad keen for a new rugby challenge. Things went a little sour in his last season with Connacht, he didn’t play a lot so we need, first off, to get him back in love with the game. His attitude is really good, of that I am sure. He can play 4,5 or 6 and our job starting July 18 is to set him up to succeed in La Rochelle and in the Top 14.
He won’t be the only new boy in school. We are excited at the prospect of Antoine Hastoy from Pau operating in the pivot, and to see what Teddy Thomas and his talents can stir into the mix. Plus we are thrilled to have secured the services of Bordeaux’s UJ Seuteni, who could prove a real handful for opponents.
The Champions Cup success has offered a monster platform to propel forward from. Now we’ve got to back it up.