2021 AIC Rugby Season Preview: Villanova
The 2020 AIC Rugby season didn’t quite go to plan for Villanova, who fell just short in two of their three matches in last year’s shortened season.
A handful of key players return from last year’s campaign though and will be joined by some exciting young talent this season.
Overview with Paul Davey:
”We’ve had a good preparation so far. We had a good performance at the Ballymore Cup and then we had a 24-24 draw against St Pat’s in our last trial on Saturday,” Davey told Rugby News.
“The players all got through that game unscathed, which is the main thing in trials, plus we’ve learnt what we need to work on this week ahead of round one against Iona.
“2020 was a frustrating season. We were in a strong pool and ended up on the losing side of two very tight games against St Laurence’s and St Peter’s. That was frustrating because in a typical season, you can even that out but in a short season, we didn’t get a chance to do that.
“We learnt a lot from last season and the boys that were involved were really grateful to get some rugby in considering everything that was going on.
“To start the season with a local derby against Iona, it’s really exciting. I’m actually an Iona old boy and I’m mates with the Iona coaches having coached both of them in club rugby, so it’s a game I always want to win.
“They are always great games. Any game with Iona, Lawries and Villa, the local derbies down south, they always tend to be really tight and entertaining matches.
“We’re aiming for three straight wins over Iona and that’s something we’re really excited about and very keen to do.
“We’re had both Ben Mowen and Andrew Slack help with our preparation this year and that’s been a massive boost to get two former old boys and former Wallabies captains working with our group.”
What style of rugby can we expect to see this season?
“We’re not the biggest team going around but we’re fit and mobile so we’ll look to play a pretty open style of rugby. We’ve got Gus Godwin at outside centre. He’s a third year first XV player who knows how to hit hard and run hard so I expect we’ll play quite a bit in the 13 channel.
“We’ve got a young year 10 boy at flyhalf Cam Bukowski. He’s already with the Broncos and is a very capable player.
“With those two, we’ll be playing an upbeat brand of rugby and look to spread the ball quite a bit.”
“It’s a bit of a mixed grill this year. We’ve got a few returning players but we had a very strong year 12 cohort last year so we’ve only got three regulars returning from last season.
“Tom Twaddell and Gussy Godwin will be our captain and vice captain. Tom is touching two metres tall and is great in the line out.
“We’ve also got Harry Grant-Smith returning from last year, he plays prop, so we’ve got a bit of experience and then a few guys who got a taste of first XV last year off the bench.
“They’re a young group but they’re really excited and we like the way they are coming together at the moment.”
Player(s) to watch:
“The three returning lads, Gus, Tom and Harry, plus Cam they’ll be worth watching,” Davey said.
“I’m also a big fan of our flankers, who probably don’t get the accolades that they deserve. We’ve got Tommy Lawrance and Lachie Reardon who are both very busy players and quick to the ball.”
Bold prediction for the season ahead:
“I don’t think it’s a bold prediction but I think it’s an absolute lottery this year. Any team can win it and I think you’ll hear that from most coaches,” Davey told Rugby News.
“All the trials have been really tight. Iona and Padua were separated by a point on the weekend, we drew with St Pat’s so there doesn’t seem to be much between the teams.
“Marist Ashgrove are always hard to line up because they avoid playing AIC teams in the preseason. They are always strong though and it looks like it’s going to be a really even competition.
“Any team that is on the wrong side of the ledger this weekend in round one will probably be chasing their seasons a little bit, so it makes the first round really important.
“We’re really grateful to be playing at home in front of our old boys against Iona. It’s always good to have the old boys cheering us on at Villa Park and we expect it to be a cracking day.”