Newent Rugby: Why Newent are happy ex-England star Kingston decided to take lead
FROM World Cup winners to Gloucester Division One, it was only by chance that former England and Gloucester scrum-half Peter Kingston arrived at Newent.
Having played 178 times for the Cherry and Whites between 1974 and 1981 and earned five caps for his country, Lydney-born Kingston took up coaching when his playing career finished.
While coaching rugby at Pate’s Grammar School in Cheltenham, stints with Gloucester as Under-21s coach, 1st XV backs coach, United coach and Academy coach saw him graduate to international level.
He served as England Schools assistant coach from 1996 to 1999 and England Under-18s Schools head coach from 1999 to 2004, helping develop some of this country’s finest-ever talents.
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The unbeaten England Under-18 Schools team that toured Australia in 1997 included the surnames Wilkinson, Tindall, Balshaw, Borthwick, Sheridan, Mears, Flatman, Sanderson and Danielli – a good chunk of whom lifted the Webb Ellis trophy six years later.
He retired from Pate’s in 2009 after a 36-year teaching career but continued part-time until calling it a day last summer.
Having lived in Newent for ten years and with more time on his hands, Kingston was asked to do some coaching by his local club, albeit in a rather unconventional way.
He said: “I was out walking my dog one day down the lane when Joe Goatley (Newent’s fly-half) pulled over in his car and we started having a chat.
“I knew Joe from when he was in the Gloucester Academy and the Under-21s side when I was at the club.
“We were just talking and he said, ‘Do you fancy coming down some time?’
“I had gone part-time at Pate’s and was still tied up on Saturdays, but last summer I retired completely and had a bit more time on my hands so I thought, ‘Why not?’
“I said to him when we were speaking in the lane, ‘I’d love to come down and do a few sessions, something with the backs and some skills.’
“But once I started in the summer I could see how enthusiastic they were and the ability of the guys.
“There are some quite talented young players there and if you take Joe out of the side then they have got a very young team!
“We don’t compartmentalise the different departments like the forwards and backs and our try scoring record backs that up.
“All teams are different and when I played 20 or 30 years ago, props couldn’t handle the ball as well as the scrum-halves.
“But nowadays one of our props has the best hands in the team and he’s a very skilful player, so you don’t really have an old-fashioned prop anymore.
“We do a lot of ball work.
“We will always use the ball and we always seem to be very strong in the last quarter of games.”
Alongside forwards coach, Northampton hooker Ross McMillan, and head coach Andy Addis, the trio set about implementing a 15-man game where props were as skilful as scrum-halves.
The statistics do not lie either with nine wins from nine matches, eight including four-try bonus points.
The team have also scored a total of 381 points this season – an average of 42 a game.
With Kingston’s invaluable experience and McMillan’s up-to-date modern day coaching techniques and methods from Saints, Addis says he is the luckiest coach in the world.
He said: “I’ve got a lot of good people around me and if you can aspire to be a coach then there’s no better mentor to have than Pete Kingston.
“He’s great for me as a sounding board, when I think we should do something one way but I’m not sure, I turn to Pete and say, ‘What do you think of that?’ and he says, ‘Good idea’.
“He puts it across in a different way to me.
“When he’s talking about things he’s done in the past he’ll say ‘David, Jonny, Steve, and Mathew.’
“And you know he’s talking about Flatman, Wilkinson, Borthwick and Tait.
“He’s coached all of them and you’re thinking to yourself this bloke has been at the top of the game in wonderful stadiums with wonderful facilities and you can see for yourself how good he is.
“We thought Pete would only be able to come down for the odd session or two here or there, but he’s here every Tuesday now as regular as me.”
TOUGH TIMES BROUGHT YOUNG PLAYERS CLOSER TOGETHER
THE phoenix has well and truly risen from the ashes and taken flight at Newent Rugby Club.
The first record of a rugby club in the town nine miles outside of Gloucester was at the turn of the 20th century.
Lights being used to build a bridge nearby were turned on to the pitch for neighbours Ross-on-Wye to take on a side from Newent in an early and rare floodlit fixture.
With football dominating the following decades, the rugby club did not see light again until 1970 when the Newent club was officially formed.
The club decided to use the emblem of a phoenix as the crest upon their green shirts to signify their rebirth.
But in more recent years the choice of the mythical creature as their symbol has turned out to be extremely appropriate.
Six years ago the entire senior first team departed almost overnight leaving the club with an under-17s side as their only players.
The squad had been together since under-14 level and their coach left as well, leaving longstanding president Mike Poole with a big decision to make.
He said: “We ran out of players and the only team we had left was a colts’ side.
“The coach of the under-17s left a message on my answer phone which I picked up when I got back from holiday saying he was fed up and was packing in because they weren’t training properly.
“So I rang up the captain of the Under-17s and asked him if they all wanted to go on and he said yes.
“All of the senior players had gone so these youngsters ended up going into the men’s game.
“That was six years ago and those youngsters are the backbone of the side now.”
The first three years laid the foundations of what was to come with the youngsters learning some harsh and often physical lessons about what it was to play adult rugby.
Adversity brought the team closer together than ever before and slowly but surely things began picking up with the fearlessness of youth eventually fusing with steel and pragmatism.
Poole said: “They played their rugby like it was seven-a-side, it was dazzling at times.
“Yes they made a few mistakes along the way but they have bulked up now and have got tremendous power.
“There are not many packs that can match ours now.
“It was a very difficult time at the beginning and you just had to say that you were not going to give up.
“When you’re in the trough, you’re all in the trough together.”
Poole was soon joined by chairman Dennis Hamlen and secretary John Moore and on the field the club began to enjoy the fruits of their hard work.
Back-to-back promotions from Gloucester Three to Gloucester One were ended last season when they missed out on going up again by one point.
Now they are five points clear of second place with a game in hand and a RFU South West Counties Junior Vase semi-final at St Bernadette’s OB to look forward to on December 22.
The club run two senior sides with an occasional third, plus a colts team, as well as under-15s, under-12s, under-tens and under-eights with a women’s team about to start up.
They are also actively seeking premises for their own ground and clubhouse as they currently operate off the one pitch at the town’s recreation ground.