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RUGBY UNION: Coach Burnell excited to lead Welsh into new era
11:00am Thursday 12th September 2013 in Sport
Justin Burnell is relishing testing himself in English rugby and locking horns with title favourites Bristol.
London Welsh’s head coach will lead his side in a competitive match for the first time on Saturday when they face Bedford Blues at Allianz Park.
“It is a club steeped in history and they were in the Aviva Premiership last year, which is a sign of how big the club is,” said the former Cardiff Blues coach.
“Previous to that, they beat the big boys at the top end of the Championship.
“It is also an opportunity to see how the other half live. “I have been in Wales for ten years and people always talk about coaching in England. It was a good challenge for me.”
Burnell’s squad is much-changed from that which Lyn Jones assembled in the Premiership last year, but he believes they can make a real statement.
“I think we can compete in that top half of the table and that’s what it is about,” he said.
“We have just got to make sure they all gel and we get our tactics right and take it from there.”
Burnell is also promising entertaining rugby as Welsh seek to further win over Oxfordshire fans.
He said: “It would be very stupid of us coming to Oxford, with an absolutely fantastic surface, not to play with width and a lot of skills.
“How we played against the Scarlets is a great example of how we want to play the game.
“We were bitterly disappointed to lose that one.” Although Burnell hopes Welsh’s season will last until the play-off final in June, he knows they must keep focused throughout the campaign.
“You have to periodise it, but you have to get points on the board, so it is very hard to know when you can take your foot off the gas,” he said. “That’s the whole purpose of having a big squad.
“The team with the best strength in depth will undoubtedly win the competition.”
Bristol, who are coached by former England and Scotland boss Andy Robinson, are most people’s title favourites.
But Burnell is unfazed by this and offered a tongue-in-cheek response.
“In all fairness to Bristol, they have been very open with the fact that they are definitely going to go up into the Premiership.
“Let’s perhaps put them aside because they have already won the league! “I guess then it is up to ourselves and Bedford, Cornish Pirates and Leeds to challenge.
“There are some great sides there. I thought last year Nottingham played some fantastic rugby. “Who knows? I guess it is down to all of us to keep up to the standards of Bristol.”
“In my last job we were based in the same building as Cardiff City and Malky Mackay was in the office just above us,” said Burnell.
“He was a good guy and we all got on really well. We had a massive following at Cardiff City.
“Now we are sharing facilities with Oxford, we will be looking to do the same. “They will certainly be a result I will be looking for week in, week out.”
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