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Pattinson believes cluster league matches will aid Windsor RFC's development

Jack Pattinson has said he’s excited about Windsor playing in a localised cluster league from early in the new year and – while he won’t feel quite the same pressure as in a typical campaign – he intends to use the matches to develop his players and coaching team.

Windsor have been pooled to play against London Irish Wild Geese, Cobham, Camberley, Farnham and Bracknell, with matches due to get underway from the middle of January subject to RFU confirmation.

Earlier this week the RFU confirmed that the Government had approved its submission for sides to play an adaptive form of 15-a-side contact rugby from early in the new year.

It also confirmed that teams could return to contact training when lockdown restrictions were eased this week with new cluster league matches pencilled in to start from the middle to end of January next year.

The rules will be slightly altered. There will be no scrums or mauls and, where the game would usually restart with a scrum, there will be a free kick. A minimum of five and a maximum of seven players from each team can form a line out. Friendly fixtures can also be played from Friday, December 18. Clubs can expect to receive further guidance from Government on travel to matches, spectators and clubhouse protocols and a detailed briefing on this is being prepared by the RFU.

“It’s definitely exciting,” he said. “It won’t feel like a typical league season, but there is opportunity in the fact that it’s different and we get to play against teams we wouldn’t normally face. The game that stands out to me is against Bracknell. It’s a local derby and they’ve just come down from the league above so it will be good to scope each other out before the normal league season resumes.

“We would be stupid not to take the opportunity to play everyone in our group, to find out what combinations work and continue working on our style of play.

“We can fine tune it and use these matches to figure out how we’re best going to be as a group for the following season, when there’s obviously going to be more at stake such as promotion and relegation.

“We’ll use our entire squad, blood some younger players and fine tune how we’d like to play. It feels like we’ve got nothing to lose in these fixtures. It feels like a free hit.”

Pattinson wants to see different combinations of players and systems on the pitch in these matches, but he’s also keen for the players to hear ‘different voices’ from the touchline as well.

“I intend to make each of my assistant coaches head coach for one of the games,” he said. “Just so they can be in my shoes and so that I can be in their shoes for certain weeks. It will also give the boys a different voice to listen to as well. We’ll be using these games for development purposes, to figure out the group, develop the coaches further and to blood younger players. I think it could be really good.

“We’ll need at least four weeks of training and friendly matches and people aren’t going to be training that intensely over Christmas. But even if these games don’t start until mid-February, that’s better than what we thought might happen this season. The boys will need time to physically condition themselves. It will have been nearly a year since they last played competitive matches with contact.”

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