“With the unfortunate injuries to Will Addison last season, I was able to take over as captain. It wasn’t a new experience: without wishing to sound arrogant, I’ve captained at pretty much everywhere I’ve been: junior age groups, The Bulls at Currie Cup level, Stade Francais and now here,” he reveals.
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“Playing at flanker, it’s good to be as close to the action as possible. If you look at some the greatest captains, many are in the forwards – Brian O’Driscoll, Jean de Villiers and Will Carling being exceptions, of course.
“From the back row, you’re closer to the referee, or maybe backrowers are simply more intelligent!
“Fellow flanker Ben Curry had a great season in the Premiership last term. Maybe he doesn’t get the credit he deserves: he does a lot of unseen work. It was nice to see him taking a leadership role which was recognised by England for the Under-20 World Cup in France this Summer. He’s got quite a knowledgeable head on his shoulders and can associate with the younger boys at the club. I’ve asked him to speak up more.
“As captain, I have my input into ‘off field’ activities, but I need to retain focus and make sure I make the starting squad first. I leave the majority of the organising to the lads ‘doing the social side’: Josh Beaumont, Marc Jones, Will Cliff & Co. There are other guys dealing with team discipline and stuff who’ve been around for a while and can sort things out.
“We’re confident in what we’ve done during the close season but we’ll know more when we start to play games. That first Gallagher Premiership match at Harlequins will reveal ‘where we are’. We obviously think we’re heading in the right direction. We made some strides in 2017-18. I don’t think eighth place was quite what we deserved.
“Hopefully, the signings we’ve made – Chris Ashton, Joe Jones, James Phillips, Rohan Janse Van Rensburg – can add a bit of spark and help us improve.”