It wasn’t just at Vallis Way, Ealing, last weekend that London Welsh’s wingers were among the tries. Joe Ajuwa crossed twice to help Rosslyn Park beat Loughborough University 18-17 to keep up the pressure at the top of National League One on pacesetters Doncaster Knights, in the race to reach the Greene King IPA Championship.
But Ajuwa wasn’t the only London Welsh player lining out for Park last Saturday, as he was joined by forwards Ben Pienaar and Ollie Stedman.
It’s a reciprocal arrangement that fulfils the needs of both parties, but one that isn’t just isolated to London Welsh-Rosslyn Park, with the Exiles also developing similar relationships with Henley Hawks and Blackheath.
Prop Billy Moss featured for Henley last Saturday, also in National League One, against Old Albanians, while Alan Awcock, Kevin Davis, Mike Denbee and Ollie Frost are also registered with the Oxfordshire club.
In addition, Matt Corker, Rhys Crane and Cai Griffiths are all registered with Blackheath.
“It’s about trying to create a relationship with some of the National League One clubs,” said London Welsh head coach Justin Burnell. “We understand that they have their own aspirations, but they’ve never once not fielded one of our players.
“With a big and very competitive squad, players need game time. We just can’t keep people on the sideline waiting for injuries to present an opportunity, and when the opportunity does arise you always find that players are rusty because they’ve had no game time.
“James Tincknell is a prime example - he’s played two or three games for Blackheath - as is Joe Ajuwa, who’s got game time at Rosslyn Park. The feedback coming in is good. Joe scored two tries and Ben and Ollie both had very good games last weekend.
“I hope this will have a knock on effect on all the other players who’ve been put out on loan.”
Rosslyn Park head coach Alex Codling said: “We’re delighted to have the relationship with London Welsh and it’s very important for us particularly at this time of the season when we have injuries.
“The biggest thing with these relationships is that they’ve got to work both ways, and we’ve certainly benefited from it.
“We benefited from having Joe [Ajuwa] earlier in the season and that helped him get back into the London Welsh first team.
“But it’s important to have the right relationship. London Welsh are pushing at the top of the Championship, they have a lot of quality of players and they can bring a huge amount of value to Rosslyn Park in terms of adding to our depth of quality, our culture and work ethic, and we fully understand that in the long term we’re doing what we can to help them get back into the first-team at London Welsh and help the club push for promotion to the Premiership.”
Henley Hawks assistant coach Pete Davies, said: “We see our relationship with London Welsh as being really close, and it’s a relationship we want like to develop even further.
“With us both being Oxfordshire based clubs now, we see it as being really important for us to be able to provide players for Welsh, which we did towards the start of the season in the B&I Cup, and for any of our players who’ve shown themselves to be good players, like Alan Awcock, who has now signed for Welsh full-time.
“It’s great for us to be able to say to a player in National League One that if you play well for us, teams like London Welsh in the Championship are looking at you and there are opportunities for you to get signed and move up.
“In the second part of the season London Welsh have been kind enough to give us some of their players and that gives us an injection of quality at a critical time of the season.
“To add the quality of full-time professionals to our squad is tremendous for us. It gives everyone a lift within the squad and the club.
“The flipside of that for London Welsh is that their fringe players are playing regular rugby so should they be needed to step back up into the Championship, they can be confident that their players are fully match fit. In that sense, everyone’s a winner.”
Blackheath director of rugby Simon Legg said: “Cai Griffiths really sured up our scrum. He’s been a great addition to the squad and really fitted in well to the side.
“James Tincknell also played for us and scored two exceptional tries against Esher, which was arguably the turning point in our season. On the back of several poor results, James scoring two great tries really lifted the side and was a turn in fortune for us.
“Both have made fantastic contributions to Blackheath.
“James has gone back to London Welsh now, so it’s worked for the player as well as both clubs. He was able to get noticed playing some good rugby for Blackheath and that enabled him to secure his place back in the London Welsh side.”