Rotherham rugby union: Andy is the Key to Titans’ future

Rotherham Titans action from last season
Rotherham Titans action from last season

Andy Key is looking forward to the challenge of re-establishing Rotherham Titans in the Championship.

Keys was announced as the new head coach at Clifton Lane at the end of last season following Justin Burnell’s departure.

The 2016/17 campaign saw the club finish bottom of English rugby union’s second tier. Had London Welsh not been liquidated, the Titans would have been relegated.

Last season’s fortunes were perhaps epitomised by events on the final day of the campaign when the team suffered their heaviest ever defeat, 82-3 at London Irish.

However, following a mass squad overhaul, which has involved 18 new arrivals to date, Key is confident better times are ahead. He said: “We know we’ve got a big challenge and I think we’re well on the road in that sense. We’ve got a lot more work to put into place yet, but we’re excited about the new season.

“We’ve got a blank canvas and a great opportunity now to re-establish ourselves.”

The new look side returned to pre-season at the beginning of June. Key, 58, who was named the 2009/10 Premiership Director of Rugby of the season for his work at Leeds Carnegie, praised the initial efforts of his team.

“I can’t applaud them higher really. They really are working exceptionally hard. We’ve had four weeks and the excitement is such that you want the season to be round the corner.”

Having helped guide Leeds Carnegie to the Premiership in 2009, Key knows what makes a successful side.

“It’s about our preparation really, we need to get that right. We need to make sure we’re very clear about how we need to play,” he said. “With a virtually new squad, we can bring a lot of new things into play because they’ve got no perceived thoughts about what they did last year. We can work with a very clean piece of paper, which we will be doing.”

Titans will have one of the division’s smallest budgets as they look to improve performances of the last two seasons.

But Key feels a big budget isn’t the only recipe for success, however crucial it may often be.

“When we went up with Leeds we probably had one of the biggest in the Championship but the minute you went into the Premiership we then had the smallest,” he said.

Alongside Neil Black, Key comfortably guided Leeds Carnegie to safety in their first season back in the top flight in 2009/10.

“At the same token, it’s consistency. It’s a very clear focus, not getting rattled when things don’t go right for you and having a very clear plan about what the team needs to look like,not just one week to the other but sometimes two or three months in advance.”

The Leicestershire born coach, who also has experience with Leicester Lions and Cambridge University, is unfazed by what some may perceive as a mammoth task ahead, however.

“I don’t know if I think about those sort of things to be honest. It’s about getting your own structure right,” he said.

“This season, as we start off on the first game, everybody has got zero, zero, zero on their sheet.

“We’d like to think with a new squad as it is that our objectives would be very much about aiming to finish mid-table - I would think sensibly - because of the good sides and more established sides that are still in the division.”