Ahead of the visit of leaders Chinnor to The GK IPA Haberden tomorrow (3pm), director of rugby Gavin Hogg has praised hooker Dan Collins for his reaction to being lifted of the burden of The Wolpack’s captaincy.
The Australian was named as Bury St Edmunds’ new first-team captain following Josh Walker’s exit from the club over the summer.
But with The Wolfpack struggling for results, having lost the four games heading into the festive break to leave them facing a relegation battle in the second half of the campaign, Hogg decided to hand the captain’s armband over to Tom Rock.
The former London Welsh Championship-experienced utility back is no stranger to the job and will have the armband for the third game running when Bury run out at The Haberden in their latest National League Two South fixture tomorrow.
But it is Collins’ displays since he was relinquished of the extra responsibility which has delighted Hogg.
“We had a pretty honest conversation with Dan about there being a loss of form,” he explained.
“We got our heads together about how to get that back, and one of the things we spoke about was taking some pressure off with the captaincy, allowing him to focus on his own performance more.
“The last two games has seen Dan start both and he has been outstanding, and was one of the standout performers last week at Redruth. So in the short-term, it has worked. Dan is still a massive part of our leadership group still though.”
He added: “Tom has got a lot of experience, with captaining the RAF side, the Combined Services team and I believe he captained at London Welsh too, so he was the obvious choice.”
It may have been their fourth straight defeat, mirroring the depressing run before Christmas, halted by the Worthing victory, but returning from their long trip south to third-place Redruth with a losing bonus point has seen Bury’s players go through training this week with a new buzz in their step, ahead of the league leader’s visit.
“We are looking forward again to playing in front of our home supporters and I think the boys owe them a certain level of performance, given how inconsistent we have been at home,” said Hogg.
“But we will take a lot of confidence from last week’s result at Redruth, which is probably one of the toughest venues to go in the league, and where we ended up winning the last 73 minutes 3-0. Considering that, the boys came off the pitch delighted.
“For us with the run of games we are on it is about getting the performance right, and we certainly did that on Saturday.”
Oxfordshire side Chinnor finished sixth last season and are level on points with Bishop’s Stortford, sitting above them at the summit courtesy of a better points difference.
But despite their lofty position, Hogg believes there is chinks in their armour that can be exposed by his side, who are now eight points and three places above the relegation zone .
“If you look at last week when they were at home to Barnes (currently fourth-from-bottom) it was 17-17 until a few minutes to go when Barnes had a set piece near to their try line and they turned it over and went the length of the field to win it.
“In the first half of the season it certainly looked like they were going to run away with the league. But since Christmas there have certainly been a few closer games, and that gives us confidence, combined with our performance against Redruth.”
He added: “We are eight points clear of that drop zone now which is two wins, so we go into Saturday with nothing to lose, and it certainly has taken a bit of pressure off us while there is that pressure on them (Chinnor) to sustain their results.”
Bury were not due to make their selection until after last night’s training session, but despite having Ben Turner back from suspension, as well as Dan Gillespie, Matt Edison and Dave Micklethwaite all available again, he admitted rewarding Saturday’s squad for their display will certainly come into his thinking.