LAUNCESTON Rugby Club have announced that head of rugby, Jimmy Tucker, will step down at the end of the season with current coaches Ian Goldsmith and Ryan Westren taking over.
Tucker has been in charge of the All Blacks since November 2015 when he replaced Mike Lewis eight games into their National League Two (South) campaign.
Given an almost impossible task with a young squad not ready for the rigours of the fourth-tier of English rugby after a summer exodus, the Polson Bridge club were relegated with just a draw to their name from 30 games.
Last season was equally as tough as they went down from the South West Premier despite a remarkable run of form after Christmas.
The 2017/18 season has proved to be much more successful as they currently sit third in Tribute South West One (West) table with 17 wins, one draw and six defeats from their 24 games played.
Their penultimate clash of the season comes at promotion-chasing Exeter University on Saturday before entertaining Keynsham next weekend in the final match of the year.
Chairman, Paul Harrison, paid tribute to Tucker’s work and hopes that they can now start climbing back up the English rugby pyramid.
He said: “Jimmy stepped in at a difficult time. It’s been a tough couple of years but everything is now going in the right direction and he’s leaving the club in a much better place than when he started. He’s not walking away from the club but he wants a bit of a break.
“I’m hopeful that if the squad stays together then we’ve got a good chance of going up the leagues quite quickly. But we need to concentrate on finishing in the top two next year and trying to get ourselves back up.”
Harrison admitted that although he’s ‘disappointed’ to see Tucker step aside, he’s confident that the new coaching staff are up to the task.
He said: “Ryan and Ian have the club at heart and that means a lot. They’ve created an ethos, which I think is important.
“Ryan works with everyone on their fitness and with the backs while Goldy concentrates on the forwards.
“Goldy also brought a lot of the Colts through in the last couple years and they’re focused on building a squad. They seem to be very together and that shows at the end of the matches. Why change something that’s working?
“It’s a step-by-step thing but we need to get back into the national leagues as soon as we can so hopefully we can get back into the South West Premier next year.”
Westren is also sad to see to see Tucker go but is looking forward to working alongside Goldsmith as they look for promotion.
He said: “I’m really disappointed to see Jimmy go. He’s helped make the pathway throughout the club as easy as possible. He has those real core rugby values which stay the same at any level and is a big believer in team ethics and working together.
“Going forward my philosophy will be slightly different but we need to continue to make sure we mix those values with some slightly different training methods as well as focusing on the analytical side of things.”
Westren then went on to explain how the new coaching structure will work.
He said: “This will be 100% a joint thing between us and we’ll make all the decisions together. I’m going to carry on playing so we’ve agreed that on game day I’ll focus solely on playing but we’re looking to bring someone in as an assistant coach.
“We’ve already started speaking to a couple of people and we’re looking for someone that’s got the club at the heart or has been previously involved.
“But Ian and I have known each other for a long time. Ian got back involved with the Colts a couple of years ago and helped them get them to the county final. So when Brett Luxton left in December 2016, he came on board unofficially to start with and then we asked him to stay on for this season.
“He’s helped tremendously with the transition for last year’s Colts so we’ll work very well together.
“We’ve got very different styles of coaching but we seem to come to the same thinking/results in our minds so it should work out well.”
Being in charge for the first time will bring its extra pressures, but Westren knows that promotion has to be the aim.
He said: “I know that it comes with the job and it’s a results game, but we know the bigger picture, so we can’t worry about outside influences.
“After two years of hell the boys have come out the other side and are full of confidence.
“We’re only one year into a five-year cycle. Most of the boys are only 20 or a bit older so the supporters have to understand that, but we know that the aspiration has to be to go up next year, else we’ll be standing still.
“If we finished in mid-table there may not be that pressure, but if we do go up next year then the sole aim for the following season will be to stay up.”
Westren isn’t making any promises about what style of rugby he’s going to play but is looking to make a few signings to push the club on.
He said: “At the moment I think we need three or four players to strengthen us and give us more depth.
“The guys that are here now are now much further down the line in their development so there’s no excuses.
“Before, circumstances forced us to have to play people when they weren’t ready but it’s now in their hands to make sure they perform.
“Me, Goldy and Jimmy have started identifying positions that we’d like to strengthen and then we’ll start to have a look around and see what we can get. However it’s not just about whether they’re a good player or not, we’ll be looking at them as a person and whether they’ll buy into what we’ve got at the moment.
“But we want to try and get them sorted as quickly as possible as they’re the players other local clubs are probably going to want and we can then focus on our gameplans and the style of play.
“Our style of rugby will be determined by our squad, our opposition, weather conditions, and, to a certain extent, our league position.”
Westren clearly has big plans for the Cornish All Blacks but is hopeful that they can do it with the nucleus of the current squad.
He said: “We want to eventually stabilise ourselves as a National Two (League South) club with the core of the players we have now and the ones who’ve been here through the tough times.
“We all want the Cornish All Blacks to rise back up through the leagues, and that’s what we hope to achieve in the coming years.”