Kilbane: We are ready to go
Titans begin their Championship campaign with a trip to London Scottish on Sunday. The Titans pre-season schedule concluded with a narrow 10-8 defeat away to Saracens last time out and the Clifton Lane outfit are itching to get the season underway.
Popular prop Jamie Kilbane gave his thoughts as he previewed the coming Championship season. The Irishman is confident the squad can challenge for promotion after a tough pre-season schedule, “Pre-season’s been really tough but really great at the same time. We’ve had a new injection of players so that’s always interesting with them getting to know a new bunch of guys and it’s always good to have a laugh and get to know one another, but more importantly you’ve got the very serious side. Andre (Bester) as you know is a perfectionist so you know there’s lots of hard work that goes into our training.” Kilbane said.
The Titans have made several new additions to their squad as Bester looks to build a side capable of reaching the Aviva Premiership and Kilbane has been impressed with the new charges, “One of the main things we do have is a brilliant team spirit and a good team unity.” He added, “There’s nobody who’s come in and rocked the boat, all of the guys are willing to work really hard and when the time is right they are willing to have a laugh, but most importantly they’re very willing to put in the hard graft.”
Kilbane is desperate to begin the season and get back to playing competitive rugby and is eagerly anticipating what is sure to be a competitive Championship league, “I suppose like anyone at this point in the season, we’ve played our friendlies and our pre-season warm up games and we’ve been training for the last 8 weeks, so at this point we’re just ready to go.” He said. “I’m really excited; there are always some nerves to an extent because every year each team improves in the Championship. So we’re in for a tough 10 months ahead but it’s always fun and we’re itching to get started.”
The Titans reached the play-offs in last season’s Championship after finishing 7th in the regular season. This year a change to the structure means they will have to finish 4th to qualify for the right to play in the Premiership. Kilbane believes that it is a case of taking it one step at a time, “The structure has changed slightly this year. Last year you only had to get into the top 8 to be in the play-offs, this year you have to be in the top 4 so the initial aim is obviously to get into the top 4 so we can participate in the play-offs and if we get there we can obviously re-evaluate what our goals are within that.”
Despite the change in structure Kilbane is confident the Titans can provide a challenge and feels the new system rewards consistency, “I think it’s a much fairer system because essentially if you came 8th you could still potentially win the league. Now the new system leans towards the more consistent teams who are always performing well and have had a good season throughout the year.” He said. “Every year in the championship it gets tougher and tougher and this year is not going to be any exception, it’s going to be exceptionally difficult. But with the group of lads we’ve got and the way we’ve been playing and improving I think we can give it a really good shot.”
Kilbane feels the squad will be suitably prepared for every side in the League and that it would be a mistake to focus on particular sides, “Every year you have a team come down from the Premiership usually with a long and illustrious history. This year that’s the Newcastle Falcons, so they’re obviously going to be very difficult.” Kilbane said. “But the brilliant and frustrating thing about the Championship is that any team can beat any other, so you can never be complacent otherwise you will get caught out and exposed.”