New Doncaster Knights coach adapting flexible approach on and off the pitch

Everything is in place for Steve Boden to begin a new era in charge at Doncaster Knights – he just needs a start date.

Thursday, 16th April 2020, 5:18 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th April 2020, 6:38 pm
Steve Boden, right, is the new head coach at Doncaster Knights. Photo: John Ashton

It was announced in December the former Yorkshire Carnegie head coach would be promoted from Clive Griffiths’s assistant to take over from the long-serving director of rugby at the end of the season.

Obviously, though, in unprecedented circumstances, the campaign ended early last month due to the coronavirus.

Nevertheless, with the country on lockdown for almost three weeks, Boden concedes he is still unsure when he will actually be able to get his hands on his squad to start pre-season preparations for 2020-21.

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“There’s so many permutations,” said Boden, the former hooker who made almost 200 appearances for Doncaster between 2005 and 2012 before moving on to Jersey.

“What we’ve done as a staff is make two plans: one starting on June 8th, the other July 1st. After that, we just have to be flexible.

“You read the news one minute and feel you’ve a good chance of making June but two days later think there’s no chance.

“It’s hard to plan. If we come in any time after 1st of July we’re not going to be able to plan what we wanted for the start of the season. We’ll have to adapt and say what’s most important, from strength and conditioning and rugby.

“We have our perfect plan of 8th June, provisional plan of 1st of July – and after that it’s basically adapt or die really.”

Thankfully, however, Boden had been placed in charge of recruitment since the new year so he has been able to put together the squad he desired for the new campaign.

The Leeds-born coach added: “I’m a big believer in starting early. If you want to get the right guys on board then you have to move early especially with the budgets we run at Doncaster.

“We have to tail things back a little bit and be smart. I’ll change the recruitment model here a little bit and we’ll probably go with a younger side; a young, hungry, ambitious side and that’s what we’re trying to instil.

“Are we ready for the Premiership as a club right now? Probably not with what’s going on with the finances in the Premiership.

“But it doesn’t mean we cannot produce as much English talent as possible.”

Doncaster reached the play-offs for the first time under Griffiths and came close to promotion when making the Championship final against Bristol in 2016.

The veteran Welshman has overseen the club’s most successful period during his nine years – split over two spells – in charge.

But the last couple of campaigns have been difficult so Boden is looking forward to putting his own mark on matters.

Asked how his approach will be different to Griffiths, the 37-year-old said: “I don’t think it’s being different to Clive – he’s done a fantastic job over the years here and credit to him for that.

“He had his own way of doing things and I’m going to have mine. The recruitment style I’ve gone with probably influences the way I want to play a little more.

“It’s nothing to do with what’s happened in the past; I want a team with balance that can play and adapt.

“I want to be able to score tries in different ways, not just be really strong in one area like being a catch and drive team, or a scrum penalty team or a team that just throws the ball from side to side.

“A key measure of how we play this year and a real positive at the end of the season will be if we can show we can score tries and win games in different ways.

“Can we dig it out in soaking wet conditions and be mentally tough, or score from deep, can we play multi-phase rugby and a kicking game rugby to win games? That would be a good test to see if we can do that.”

Boden started his coaching career looking after Jersey’s forwards before moving to Carnegie as assistant ahead of 2016-17, helping them reach the Championship final in his first campaign.

He took over as head coach in 2018-19 but the club became crippled by financial issues that led to their collapse into a CVA and break-up of the entire squad.

That testing experience taught the Yorkshireman plenty about dealing with “adversity” but he is excited by a far smoother operation at Castle Park.

As preparations step up, Boden’s new-look coaching team will comprise Joe Ford, the former Leicester Tigers fly-half who coached Carnegie last term, strength and conditioning coach Dougie Flockhart and head of performance analysis Burhan Torgut.