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20 Questions: Steve Hill – Richmond DoR

How about that for a first season in the Championship?

The boys were desperate to prove they deserved to be in this league regardless of what happened to London Welsh so to beat Cornish Pirates last week and secure tenth place with one game to go was special.

That was the double against Pirates too, wasn’t it?

Indeed! If anything it shows how much we’ve improved throughout the season. The players can be very proud of themselves.

How pleased are you with the character shown?

Some people thought we’d struggle in the last 20 minutes because we weren’t full time but that hasn’t been the case and in some case we finished stronger – like last week against Pirates.

What did you do to make sure you’d compete as amateurs?

The players have put the work in during the week outside their full-time jobs to make sure the gap between professionals and us was as small as possible.

Were those extras player-led?

It had to come from the players but we tried to put a professional environment around them to help out. We’ve brought more S&C coaches, a nutritionist and gave them access to a couple of gyms.

Is avoiding relegation this season bigger than being promoted last season?

We’d been in National One for four years so we knew a lot about that league. But there was so much unknown this season and that has to make it a bigger achievement.

Most pleasing thing for you?

Our scrum was tested early on but it got stronger and stronger. Rupert Harden, Ross Grimstone and Tim Walford have done fantastically while Matt Corker and Will Warden at locks were immense too.

Did Adam Jones help out?

I brought Adam in to work on our scrum and he’s had a huge impact on the players. Colin Osborne also came along from Quins to work on the breakdown.

Stand out scrum of the season?

In our second game of the season, seeing Tim Walford, an Eton-educated posh boy who works in the city, take on Ben Franks, a double World Cup winning tighthead. It was an even contest!

What about that win against London Scottish?

It was our first win of the season in November against our Athletic Ground rivals and it was a huge boost of confidence. We knew we could win at this level after that.

Five wins in total?

We’ve also got two in the B&I Cup and if I’m honest we probably exceeded the number of wins we thought we’d get.

What’s next?

We have to be even better. I had seven players with Championship experience at the start of the season. Now I have 37 players. We won’t fear going into games next season.

Staying part-time?

Yes. Bedford, Hartpury College, London Scottish and maybe even Nottingham will go that way next season. It’ll be new to them but we know how to do it so we’ll be ahead of some of those teams.

Will you squad be the same?

We’ve built our success on continuity for the past seven years. I’m only going to lose Sam Stuart who’s going to Newcastle and Matt Corker who’s now working in Kent and won’t be able to continue.

Any signings?

Five or six players in different positions but that’s it. I don’t need and I don’t want 20 new players.

Anything you’d have done differently?

Travelling a day early for away games. We only did it once against Cornish Pirates and it helped us so we’ll look to do that more.

Off on tour next week?

I’m taking 38 players to Texas for 10 days. That’s very important to the ethos of the club and they’re already talking about going to Argentina next year.

How do you remain successful as a coach?

I’m the one leading the program but I’ve got to mention Rob Powell our defence coach and Mark Matzopoulos. They’re fantastic and you need good people around you to succeed. Michelle Cuthbert our physio is doing wonders too. I only had one injured players in my squad of 40 going into the last week of the season.

Best and worst banter at Richmond?

Cameron Mitchell has the best but Jack Allcock is the worst.

Best and worst dressed?

Timmy Walford wears awful kit to training but Ronnie McLean is the best dressed.

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