Cornish Pirates chief executive Becki Thomas insists that there is plenty to feel positive about for the Championship side currently, despite two prestigious friendlies against Northampton and cross-Tamar rivals Exeter being cancelled this week, writes Gareth Davies.
The Premiership giants were due to visit the Mennaye Field as pre-cursors to both top-flight and Championship seasons, but owing to several factors, these matches will not take place this year.
However, Thomas, who was appointed to her role in February this year, didn’t rule out the games taking place in 2021.
Both Saints and Chiefs are still involved in both Premiership and European action and with neither final of those respective competitions taking place until the early autumn, fitting in friendly clashes was always going to prove impossible.
For the Pirates, supporters not being able to attend games until October at the earliest also meant the matches were dead in the water for the time being. A friendly against the Chiefs produced a bumper Mennaye gate a year ago and similar was expected this time round.
“We’re naturally very disappointed that the games won’t take place,” said Thomas, when speaking exclusively to The Independent on Friday.
“After the success of playing Exeter last season, we were really looking forward to going out and showing people what we’ve got but the view is that we will play those games again when we can. I’ve spoken with both Exeter and Northampton and they have both been very understanding.
“Everyone is keen to keep the links going and hopefully we can rearrange the matches. Both Exeter and Northampton have matches around that time (September) and we don’t know when either league will start again (for 2020-21) and if that will coincide and if they will sync. All being well, and if everyone’s season is aligned, next summer, we can get the friendlies pencilled into the fixture list.”
Thomas also reflected on her first six months steering the Pirates’ ship and despite much adversity caused by Rugby Football Union funding cuts and then implications from the coronavirus pandemic, she says the club are ‘in good shape’.
“From a financial point of view, it’s been an interesting one,” she remarked. “We started off with the RFU news and then a month later we have Covid. It couldn’t have gone any worse really and losing both friendly matches is a huge financial blow.
“With no return to play date, we are in limbo currently. However, we are in good shape really considering everything that has gone on, although this whole situation is really difficult to plan for financially.
“We would normally be busy throughout the summer selling season tickets, booking in hospitality and getting our retail off the ground for the new season. Without a firm start date for the new season, or even an idea what the new season might look like because of any Government restrictions, we can’t get going on any of those things and it has had a knock-on.
“Looking forward, positively, Thomas draws comfort from the fact Pirates have managed to keep a full-time squad while some of their Championship rivals have been forced part-time. Also, despite losing matches against Exeter and Northampton, they do have a home clash with fallen giants Saracens in the second-tier next term.
“We are all positive and looking to get back to it,” she added. “The fact we have managed to retain not only a full-time squad, but the majority of the same squad is only a positive thing.
“The rugby support staff and office staff is the same and that shows that we are strong on and off the field. That in itself is a really big positive too.
“We have Saracens on the horizon too and that will be a really big one. Yes, some of the Championship teams have gone part-time, but there are still some challenging teams within our league and some really good rugby too.”

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.