Rugby Union: Henley profit from a semi-detached view

David Llewellyn finds successful clubs need not embrace full professionalism

HOLIDAY destinations at this time of year generally encompass places such as Val d'Isere, Klosters, Kitzbuhel, Aspen, Cortina and the like. Somehow Kingsholm does not quite fit the bill. But Gavin Sharp is going to give it a go.

Sharp is a firefighter contracted to the RAF - the service he left some two years ago - based in High Wycombe and free time is a precious commodity. "I haven't any choice," explained the 28-year-old Sharp. "I have to take a day's holiday on Saturday." It might well turn out to be the holiday from hell for the Henley wing and his colleagues as they go in search of victory in the Tetley's Bitter Cup in a fifth-round tie at Gloucester, despite their startling success in the previous round when they put paid, in convincing fashion, to Allied Dunbar Premiership One strugglers Bedford, with Sharp scoring two of their four tries.

Sharp caught the rugby public's eye when he turned out at centre for the Combined Services against the 1993 All Blacks at Devonport and tackled the New Zealanders (captained by John Mitchell, the Sale director of rugby) into the ground.

That was in his first incarnation as a Henley player, when they were coached by Clive Woodward. Sharp was subsequently signed by Bristol, for whom he played from 1994 to 1996, making 20 appearances and scoring four tries. "The problem was that I never had the speed to play at that level and ultimately I got a bit disillusioned," he said.

So it was back to Henley, whose approach latterly has been shaped as much by Tony McArthur, their director of rugby and a holder of a senior Welsh Rugby Union coaching qualification, as anyone. McArthur brings a refreshingly different attitude to the game. He assisted John Dawes in coaching the Welsh side a couple of decades ago after a distinguished career with London Welsh and Cardiff, but he has also lived life outside the game, and can lay dubious claim to inflicting Noel Edmonds on the public.

He was programme director with Radio Luxembourg for four years from 1967 and in that time Edmonds was introduced to him. "He was still doing his A-levels," recalled the 54-year-old McArthur, who went on to manage Shirley Bassey, Charles Aznavour and Rick Wakeman. Having left show business, McArthur, who had been drawn to the rugby club after moving to Henley, was persuaded to bring his business acumen and knowledge of the game together and, working in tandem with coach Nigel Dudding, to see where they could take the club.

Unsurprisingly for someone born in Aberystwyth but brought up in Australia (winning two caps for Australia Schools), it is an Australian coach, Bob Dwyer, who has provided McArthur with his abiding principle: "If they don't score against you they can't beat you." McArthur takes it a step further. "I've coached in the United States," he said, "and they have a concept of offensive defence. We have a similar approach. When we have the ball we attack and when they have the ball we attack them to get possession."

It is an approach which has taken the Hawks into second place in Jewson National League One - two divisions below Gloucester - with a formidable record of 51 tries (eight from Sharp) scored, against 17 conceded. Naturally, as much as the Cup means a great deal they are not harbouring romantic notions, although Sharp is undaunted. "I've played there before, for Bristol. The crowd never bothered me."

But promotion is the target this year. "We are ready for it," McArthur said. "I know we can compete there." He is also confident that they will hold their own on the financial front. "We are breaking even," he said. Not for Henley the importation of expensive stars, semi-professionalism is the name of their particular game.

But even if all they want to do is concentrate on the league and gaining promotion, there is no doubt that this week at least all minds will be focused on Saturday and the possibility of a giant-killing. After all, a Cup run beats an Alpine black run any day.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Sport
The RBS Six Nations trophy at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Ireland vs England
rugby
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West found himself at the centre of a critical storm over the weekend after he apparently claimed to be “the next Mandela” during a radio interview
music
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?