Skipper Tom Calladine can barely recognise the Rotherham Titans ahead of the new Greene King IPA Championship, after a disastrous campaign last time out.
Titans finished bottom of the league table in 2016/17, below part-time outfit Richmond, but were spared relegation by the liquidation of London Welsh. It’s been all change for the club since that disappointment, according to Calladine, who says there’s a new positive attitude amongst the squad.
“The club seems a different place for all the new bodies and, obviously, a new coaching set up so things are looking good,” he said. “It’s a brand-new squad, it was a long old tough year for us, as it was the previous year, so a lot of new signings and some young faces. You have to learn from last season. But we’ve tried to put it to bed, put it behind us, and we’ve looked at it as a new season.
“We’ve tried to revolutionise what we are and rebrand ourselves with a totally different style of rugby, a different game-plan that will hopefully put us back where we belong.
“When Blacky (Lee Blackett) was in charge four or five years ago we were pushing into top four every year and it’s something they need to get back at Rotherham Rugby.
“If we push towards the middle to the top of the table then I think we’ve done our jobs as players to represent the club well.”
Former head coach Justin Burnell parted company with the Titans in March of last season with Andy Key now preparing for his first full season in charge of the club.
And Calladine revealed that the new head coach has brought plenty of fresh thinking to pre-season ahead of the new campaign.
“Kiwi (Andy Key) is very attacking-minded but knows it needs to be built on defence,” Calladine continued.
“The last two seasons we’ve tried to bully teams and try to smash into teams and go through that way.
“But Kiwi’s looked at new things to get us through, like different kicking tactics, different defensive tactics and trying to play the ball and use the ball better.
“We’ve got some quick, quick wingers and a back three that are looking to take the ball on, so it’s not a rebranding but a new style of rugby that’ll suit us.”
Titans’ new style will be put to the test in the Greene King IPA Championship for the first time on September 3 when they welcome Nottingham to Clifton Lane.
And Calladine is confident that new signings Luke Peters and Yiannis Loizias will benefit massively from the change in approach.
“I don’t think he (Peters) got much love at Ealing but he’s come in and stood up really well in the first few games,” he added.
“Yiannis has come from Loughborough but he looks real hot at the minute – real quick, real aggressive, good in the air and looks like he’ll be scoring some tries this season.”
*The Greene King IPA Championship is the second tier of professional rugby in England. To keep up to date with the latest news and features follow @ChampRugby on Twitter