[Q] Last weekend's result didn't go England's way, what are your thoughts?
[LUKE] It's always a tough fixture against Wales, and this one was no different. We are old rivals who love to scrap in to each other, and it was great to be back at Cardiff Arms Park for the game having last played there in 2016. It was a really tough encounter with a lot of sore bodies on both sides following the game - I'm still aching now! We came into the game having won the Broadstreet Cup last season at Ilkley RFC following a fantastic performance, however that was our only victory since 2012, so Wales were still minor favourites. England Deaf is still on an upwards curve, following a massive re-development over the last 5 years, whereby in 2013 we weren’t even able to field a side in the fixture. We're growing with stature and confidence year on year and the playing field is a lot more level nowadays. Ultimately Wales took their chances during the game and we didn't. That being said, it was great to share a beer with Wales Captain Jon Cudd after the game too. We've developed a good relationship off the pitch having played against each other so many times, although of course there is no love lost when we step onto the field!
[Q] What do you think were the deciding factors?
[LUKE] We missed some experienced heads with a number of players injured or unavailable last weekend. To loose the likes of Pete Altham, Kevin Osbourne and Wayne Reed in the front row alone will always be difficult to contend with, but add that to the likes of Jack Haddock, Aaron Beesley, Sam Eydmann, Max Thorne and Cameron Roberts it's always going to affect the strength of the squad. The boys who took to the field played tremendously well and there were some stand out performances by the likes of Henry Peuble who made some fantastic lines breaks from fly-half, Full Back Tom Walker's counter attacking threat and also some brilliant work in the loose from Josh Page at Hooker. I also think that Craig Orrick's experience enabled him to transition from Number Eight to Inside Centre really well, and he was helped by the rest of the back line in Danny Rowland at 9, Dave Martin at 13 and the two wingers, Luke Nelson and Rory Fisher. We ended up playing into Wales' strengths, and we spoke at half-time about getting out of the arm-wrestle we found ourselves in, ultimately we never quite got out of that, and it enabled Wales to get a fairly strong hold on the match. Credit to Wales, they deserved the win, but we can keep our heads high.
[Q] Lot's of positives to take then?
[LUKE] Yeah absolutely. Aside from the things we've mentioned, the game also gave the opportunity for Henry Lygo, who unfortunately had to go off injured during the first half, and also his replacement, Rhys Bingham, the opportunity to win their first caps. I thought they both contributed brilliantly to the game and both will play a massive part in the future of England Deaf Rugby for many years to come. In addition to that, we also had young Jacob Unwin on the bench for the first time. Jacob is a 17 year old who has been supporting England Deaf for a long time, attending as a spectator at a number of the Broadstreet Cup battles over the last number of years, so to see him make that step up into a match day squad is a win in itself and we're really excited about what he is going to bring to the fold in the build up to the next game in April.
[Q] Fletch is known to be brutally honest in his reflections, what has he said about the game?
[LUKE] Fletch is a hugely passionate bloke who expects really high standards. He's been the pivotal part in the resurgence of England Deaf Rugby over the last 5 years and deserves a lot of credit. After the game, he was of course disappointed that we came off second best, but was hugely positive with regards to what we can take from the 80 minutes and learn as we move forward into the future. He made sure that we gave Wales the respect and credit they deserved after the game.
[Q] Can England turn the result around at Sale FC in April?
[LUKE] Of course. Many of us have experienced a number of highs and lows with England Deaf, from beating New Zealand 3-0 in a series a couple of years back, right across to the disappointment of losing a World Deaf 7s Cup Final late in the game last year in Sydney. We'll learn from this result, build upon the positives and be ready to turn it around up in Manchester. I played for Sale FC for a season a few years back, so personally, it'd be great to go up there and win the game.
[Q] Speaking of experiences, you're not far from beating the record number of international appearances for England Deaf, what are your thoughts on that?
[LUKE] If anything it just makes me feel old! I've been extremely proud every time I have pulled on an England Shirt, and I have been immensely lucky to have been a part of so many fantastic experiences, and getting the opportunity to travel abroad to represent England against the likes of Italy, Bulgaria and of course the World Deaf 7s last year in Australia, which I can hands down say was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, alongside such a fantastic group of people who toured. I'm getting goose bumps just think about how great that was! It's brilliant to see so many of the lads within the squad who have a number of caps to their name, with Barney Reed not far behind me on the appearance front too. That experience will no doubt help us and drive us forward to reach our aim of becoming the number 1 team in the world.
[Q] As a side note, you've been working closely with Wes Pooley from the welsh team in the development of Home Nations Deaf Rugby, what is the thought behind bringing the teams together?
[LUKE] Wes and I have been on the circuit for a while now, and we wanted to help grow the profile of Deaf Rugby in the Northern Hemisphere. It'd be great if one day we could have our own version of the 6 Nations, however it's a difficult ask for nations such as Scotland and Ireland, who aren't yet as established as England and Wales. We hope that the formation of HNDR not only gives the opportunity for Scotland and Ireland to grow their presence, but also supports the brilliant work that England Deaf Rugby and Wales Deaf Rugby do in promoting our fantastic sport. We have a fixture later this month in Birmingham, so keep your eyes peeled!Updated 16:08 - 20 Mar 2019 by Sean Fletcher