FORMER France defence guru Dave Ellis says Kenilworth’s historic treble-winning season ranks alongside some of his finest achievements in the game.
A 32-26 victory over Gloucestershire outfit Matson at Twickenham last Sunday saw Kenilworth add the RFU Intermediate Cup to the Midlands 2 (South West) League title, won by a whopping 14 points, and the Midlands Intermediate Cup.
Hordes of supporters were present on the day to see captain Bobby Thompson lift the trophy after Kenilworth survived a stirring comeback to come out on top in a nine-try thriller.
“It’s not been a bad first season at all,” said Ellis, who was appointed head coach on the eve of the 2018/19 campaign. “I went in not knowing anyone a week before the season kicked off and it was a big challenge for me.
“But I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m working with two current Coventry players who come along on Tuesday and Thursday nights, Will Maisey does the backs and George Oram does the forwards, and I’ve been overlooking what they’ve been doing.
“All the players are local boys, a lot of them went to Warwick School and know each other quite well. It’s the same group of players that’s been at the club for the past couple of seasons so to see what they have achieved this season is phenomenal.
“I didn’t have a clue how far we’d be able to take them, but the sky is the limit really when players are prepared to put the hard work in.”
Next season Ellis is hoping to continue as Kenilworth head coach while working as a consultant at a professional club.
He applied for the Leicester defence coach job but missed out to Phil Blake, while Coventry was thought to be an option but that’s no longer the case with Anthony Allen taking on the role.
For someone who was part of a successful London Irish and Gloucester setup in the Noughties, as well as spells in the Top 14, it’s surprising his talents haven’t been utilised at a higher level.
While Ellis continues to search for the right fit in English rugby, Shaun Edwards, below, is set to head across the channel after the 2019 World Cup to take on his former role as defence coach of Les Bleus.
Ellis, 61, knows at first hand how difficult the job is, and it’s to his eternal credit that he did so well in such a challenging environment.
Les Bleus won five Six Nations titles and two Grand Slams with Ellis in charge of the defence and also reached the final of the 2011 World Cup where they came mighty close to upsetting the All Blacks on home soil.
Ellis added: “The language will be a major problem as well as the politics. They have difficulty understanding a Yorkshireman but with a Lancastrian going in it’ll be impossible!
“It took me three months of intense studying to start to understand and speak the language.
“The difference in pronunciation between certain words can be very important. I remember one of the English lads that I coached over there went to the bakery to get some baguettes and thought he was being courteous on receiving the goods by saying, ‘merci beaucoup’ to the rather large lady behind the counter.
“Unfortunately, it sounded like merci beau cul, which rather than meaning thanks a lot means ‘thank you, nice bum’. He received a slap across the face!”
JON NEWCOMBE / Photo: Getty Images