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The Falconsrugby.co.uk Interview - Matt Thompson


By Mark H
February 8 2005

I was lucky enough back on the Media Day to have a chance to sit down with Matt Thompson and Joe Shaw. Joe's question and answer session will be on site next week, but we start this week with Matt.

In the hooking department, Matt Thompson is the constant from last season.  Nick Makin has gone to be replaced by Andy Long, but it's the softly spoken Thompson who's still there and effectively the man in possession on the shirt.  Much of the focus of the day was on Jonny Wilkinson's return, but I took the chance to have a few words with one of the men in that most vital of positions; where if you can't get set-piece ball, you'll struggle.  After the preliminaries (and I can't remember for the life of me where Matt said he'd been on holiday, but he did say that he'd enjoyed it a lot), the questions kicked in.

So what’s the pre-season been like so far?

It’s been good, different to the past couple of seasons, we’ve been doing a lot of ball work, normally we have three weeks of raw fitness then just slowly gradually get into the rugby side of things, but we started off sort of doing things with the ball, play games, had a couple of games of basketball, football, it’s been a really good atmosphere.

How was the acting as dogs I’ve heard about after Colin’s press conference? (There was a training session after Colin Charvis’ introductory press conference open to the media, so Blackie decided to have a bit of fun and wind up the press by getting the players to go canine)

I don’t think I was there!

Lucky escape I think…

Aye.

What’s the difference now working with Ross Nesdale to Andy Blades, and also with Andy Long as opposed to Nick Makin?

Andy Long’s been away on honeymoon, so he’s been away for the last two and a half weeks, but by his past experiences, he’s an experienced player, he’s got an England cap. Ross is super, he was a superb player here for the club, he’s a great coach as well by the looks of it. He’s bringing new ideas into it, we’re playing a different style of rugby this year, trying to keep the ball off the floor, and he’s bringing a lot of new ideas - it looks quite promising.

How have you coped with the step up to Premiership over the last couple of seasons?

I came from school straight into Premiership rugby and that was a huge step up. For the first season and a half it was quite hard for me - I had to build myself up to match all the rest of the players both physically and to the fitness levels, but now I’m finding it good that I can match everyone in the Premiership.

We’ve been talking on the site about the hookers, and how they fit into the Premiership, and that it does seem that in the Premiership most of the hookers are on the same level, so literally any of them could take that step up into the England team. Is that something you foresee for yourself?

My aim, I mean hopefully I’ll push Andy Long as we’ve both got the same aims; he wants to get into the England squad again, and I want to get into it for the first time, and with the same aims hopefully we’ll push each other hard enough so that we can get those wishes.

Are you looking forward to your first taste of the Heineken Cup?

Can’t wait for it. I mean, it’s a totally different experience to the Parker Pen; no disrespect to people like Valladolid, but they’re not the same sort of opponents as people like Perpignan or Newport, superb clubs and superb teams who it’ll be excellent to play against.

Can we win the group?

It’d be great wouldn’t it?

I’ve heard and seen people describe it as one of the weaker pools - I look at it another way, every team in that pool can win it…

I don’t see where people can say it’s one of the weaker pools when you’ve got the cup winners in England, Perpignan were second, the second best team in the French league, Newport finished I think third in the Celtic League, and Edinburgh, very strong, the best team in Scotland I’d say. You can’t say that it’s a weak league, I feel that here we can beat anyone, any team in the world, but away - it all depends on our away form, how we perform, especially Perpignan and Edinburgh, those two games will be crucial to us away from home.

Are there any lessons from the Montferrand game last season, where up until the last twenty minutes we though “yes, we’ve gone over there, we’ve done a job, we’ve beaten them” then it just sort of slips?

You see we…Montferrand were playing very, very well, home and away, played the conditions well, but I think…it’s hard to say why we lost that tie, individual mistakes maybe, but personally I felt we deserved to go through that tie, if we’d beaten them we could have done anything. We were very unlucky to have played them.

Is there any added pressure being the chairman’s son?

Well there always is, but I never think about it. I mean yeah, I am the chairman’s son, but I feel that I’ve got here because of my rugby playing ability. There’s always banter in the changing rooms, gaffer’s son and all that, but it doesn’t bother me at all. It makes me train harder, because it means I’ve got to prove myself and prove myself over time, but on the pitch it doesn’t bother me. I get a lot of banter from other teams, saying “oh we know why you’re in this team”, especially when I’m trying to throw the ball in the lineout , so I just laugh at them and say “watch this”, things like that, give them banter back.

Who are your hardest opponents?

Hardest opponent was probably…most physically demanding was Steve Thompson, he uses his body weight very well in the scrum, and he’s the best scrummager, but it’s hard to say. The best thrower of the ball I would say is Andy Long, but everyone’s got their own different traits as a hooker - I think Steve Thompson. I played against Keith Wood when I was 18, and he was really good.

How important are the supporters up here?

The supporters are amazing. They come to matches, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing or where we‘re playing, there’s always a following and they always spur you on so much. Admittedly when the stadium wasn’t developed, the atmosphere wasn’t that good, but now the stadium’s been developed and all that, on the pitch it’s amazing…

Certainly with the physical conditions up here…(looking out the window at the rain that’s been pouring down for hours)

Yeah. A player can tune his mind into a game to a certain amount and a certain degree, but as soon as he steps out on the pitch, I think…you’ve got your mindset right but you go up a level when you hear the supporters shouting “Falcons, Falcons, Falcons“ and all that; especially when you’re warming up, they start shouting and stuff, when you go through the posts, that all spurs you on.

What’s your main memory of Cup Final day?

A lot of memories, but Joe Shaw’s try, and the celebration. I was behind the sticks warming up, Rob had just told me I was getting on... that was my main memory. Can’t remember much though after the game!

Thank you very much Matt.

Cheers.

 

Many thanks to Matt for spending time with me.  The thing that struck me (apart that he seems like a decent bloke) is how determined he is to progress on the rugby field, and that he wants to do it at Falcons.  That can only be good for all of us.  Next time you're standing watching the players warm up, crank up the volume - it does have an effect!

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