The Colchester Gladiators face the biggest test of the season so far when they host the current Premier Division champions, the London Warriors at Colchester Rugby Club this Sunday at 2.30pm.
The Gladiators will be massive underdogs to a team that went unbeaten last season and has now extended their winning streak to 14 games, their last defeat being the Premier final of 2012 when they lost narrowly to five time winners, the London Blitz.
The Warriors only joined the league in 2006 when they graduated from being the dominant junior team in the country, to now dominating the senior league. The Gladiators played against the Warriors in their debut senior season, losing both games and have not played since, as the Warriors’ dramatic rise through the ranks of British American football saw them finally reach the pinnacle last year.
Warriors Head Coach Tony Allen enjoys many contacts with coaches around the world and benefited from these in the form of coaching clinics, funding and professional experience with many of this country’s best players, some of whom latched on to NFL teams as part of the International Player Development programme, and have now joined the team as players and coaches themselves. They even arranged a coaching clinic by legendary linebacker Ray Lewis who’s impressive story and experiences served as inspiration to many who were there.
Also on the Warriors squad is TV personality Vernon Kay. The host of Family Fortunes has developed into a very good, hard hitting safety who more than holds his own in the star studded line up, and is expected to start on Sunday.
The Gladiators squad however, is starting to look very thin is the rigours of life in the top tier takes its toll. Star linebacker Mark Gilbranch is the latest to withdraw from the squad due to personal reasons and the overall lack of depth will be a major factor in determining their level of performance.
Head Coach Matt Roberts is optimistic however and is looking forward to gauging his team’s progress against the best in the country. The Warriors have already put together a number of lopsided wins this year and if the Gladiators are to avoid a similar result, they will need to be at their very best and enjoy some good fortune.
Coach Roberts said: “The Warriors are a great team with some superior athletes that have benefited from excellent coaching and they are the number one ranked team in the country for a reason.
“We learnt a lot from the film of our disappointing loss to the Cats and have had a couple of great training sessions this week which will help us prepare for this massive challenge.
“It’s for games like this that we play the game for and it will certainly act as a measuring stick to see where we need to get to, to be able to challenge at this level. The game will show off some of the best talent this country has to offer, from both teams, so I highly recommend coming to Colchester Rugby Club to check it out.”
The junior team meanwhile, has a long trip to Southampton to take on the tough Solent Thrashers. After two great results, confidence is high amongst the players and Head Coach Tim Rowe is taking great pride in how the team is shaping up. He said: “After taking a bit of a hiding in our first game of the year where we were very underprepared, it’s been great to see how the lads have turned things around in such a short space of time. We lost many starters on both sides of the ball from last year so to see these young players, many very inexperienced, training hard and listening to the coaches, is testament to their character. With only a six game regular season, every game is important, and a win on Sunday will be a massive step towards our target of reaching the playoffs again.
For a complete list of fixtures, further information about the Club and contact details for all sections, visit www.colchestergladiators.com.