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The Comedy of Errors

A Brief History of Nottingham Rugby

7 November 07 words: Samuel Rodgers

A Brief History of or local rugby team, plus interviews withe three current players Tom Barlow, Ben Thompson and Daniel Montegu...

A Brief History of Nottingham Rugby

Birkin (or Sir Alexander Russell Birkin, to give him his full title) maintained his active interest in the club until his death in 1942. For many years the Birkin family were considered to be synonymous with Nottingham RFC, with various members being associated with the club from 1877 to 1956.

Without their commitment, the club would never have got off the ground. Indeed, the ground at Ireland Avenue, Beeston, was given to the club in 1904 by Leslie Birkin, brother of Alick. Ireland Avenue remained the club’s home until its sale in 2006. Then they moved in to groundshare with the Notts County FC, the oldest professional football club in the world.

The first changing rooms were built in 1929, prior to this the players changed in the nearby Victoria pub. Misbehaviour, could cause their banishment to the stables, where a single domestic bath had to cater for both teams.

Throughout the first 75 years of its use, the ground at Beeston was noted as a mud heap. It was part of the flood meadow of the River Trent. The high water table made it difficult to drain and the problems were exacerbated by alterations to the confluence of the Trent and the Leen. Eventually these problems were overcome and the club felt safe in spending £15,000 in drainage twenty years ago.

V.H.Cartwright (14 caps) was Nottingham’s first international player between 1904 and 1906. He eventually captained England and was a referee during his playing career before becoming a selector and eventually President of the RFU. Sixtyone years later John Pallant (3 caps) became Nottingham’s second international. Other international players have included Dusty Hare (1-1974), Gary Rees (23-1984-91), Rob Andrew (9- 1985/86), Brian Moore (25-1987-90), Chris Oti (2-1988) and Simon Hodgkinson (14-1989-91). Chris Gray had 22 caps for Scotland (1989-91) and Brian Moore is the club’s only British Lion.

Nottingham RFC started the 2007/08 season in Division One, the second tier of English Rugby Union.

Tom Barlow - Fly half

How do you feel about last season’s campaign?
It was a bit disappointing really as we had expectations of coming in the top five and we actually did better the year before. But we built ourselves as a team and played some good rugby, as well as some poor rugby, so obviously we need to work on consistency. Also we didn’t get off to a great start last year which is something we aim to put right this time.

What reasons do supporters have to be optimistic about this coming season?
Strangely, the fact that we’ve kept the same squad should help us. Many teams chop and change a bit too much whereas we’ve kept the core of the squad together, only losing a few whilst also making some good additions.

Why do you think rugby is not as popular here as it is in Leicester?
Well, Leicester has a Premiership rugby team. They’ve been successful for a long time and people support winners. If we can emulate that kind of success then maybe rugby would become more popular in Nottingham.

Where do the players like to drink in Nottingham?
In terms of town the guys last year were quite keen on Walkabout. The Southbank is quite near the club so that’s good for us to go to on a Sunday afternoon.

What new signings have you made and how are they fitting in?
We haven’t made too many new signings. Some new lads have finished school or university and have joined us but they’re all fitting in really well.

Where do you hope to realistically finish this year?
(Laughs) Well I made a prediction last year and put it this way I was wrong. I don’t want to jinx it!

Ben Thompson - Fly half or full back

Do you think the profile and popularity of rugby is on the up at the moment in Nottingham?
Well I hope so… part of my job, as well as playing, is to promote the club and raise our profile. Playing at Meadow Lane has helped as opposed to running around a muddy field in Beeston.

Which player would you say is the biggest fans’ favourite and why?
It’s probably Craig Hammond. He’s been at the club for a while and he’s a big Kiwi with an outgoing nature. He’ll talk to anyone. He’s also the captain and he puts everything into his performances on the pitch which the fans can admire and relate to.

Who would you pick out as one to watch this year and what do they bring to the side?
A new scrum half has just joined from Loughborough University called Chris Pilgrim, though we’ve nicknamed him Storm. When he was at uni they all called him Bonghead after the guy out of Hollyoaks he looks like. One day he said he was sick of it, saying he wanted a cool nickname like Storm, which has stuck ever since.

Do you go out drinking together much?
We don’t tend to drink during the week but we have a good crack at the weekend.

Daniel ‘Monty’ Montegu - Number 8

What reasons do you feel supporters have to be optimistic about this coming season?
As a team in preseason we’re looking really good. Looking forward to being in, say, the top five competing with the professionals. We played Leicester and London Irish which was a really good experience as they are top Premiership sides. Hopefully we can take this form and experience into the first games of the season to show everyone what we’re made of.

How many protein shakes and how many hours in the gym does it take to build up a rugby players body?
Personally I don’t take many protein shakes and have now been taken off weights completely as I’m 117 kilos. So for the moment I’m mainly working on other aspects such as my speed and agility. I do quite a few things like basketball drills.

Is it a case of ‘what happens on tour stays on tour’ or can you let us in on any antics from your travels?
(Laughs) It’s going to be a case of what happens on tour stays on tour I’m afraid. I’m a single man at the moment but erm… many of us have wives and girlfriends. Still, we did go down to Portsmouth over the summer and spent some time in a barracks based there. They put us up and we had some really good nights out. Lots of team bonding shall we say and high spirits. Heavy drinking.

Who’s going to win the Rugby World Cup this year?
New Zealand should do but they’re renowned for just choking in certain big games. You certainly can’t disregard the French, particularly on home soil.

And England?
I don’t think they’ve got a hope (laughs). Seriously, if you put a bet on them you’re wasting your money!

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