DONCASTER KNIGHTS have been delighted at the calibre of applicant to succeed Lynn Howells as director of rugby.
The Welshman is to step down from his post at the end of the season after four years at Castle Park, and although his assistant Brett Davey is the favourite to succeed him, the club's decision to advertise the position nationally has met with a high level of interest.
"There's been some very good applicants," said club director John Lowe. "When we were looking last time we struggled to get as many strong candidates interested as we have this year.
"People now realise we are comfortable in the Championship, are sensible with our finances and don't do silly things.
"At present we're drawing up a short-list of names. If it's an internal promotion then we can announce it quickly, but if it's someone who has got a contract with another club at the moment then obviously we will be waiting until the summer.
"We're looking for a director of rugby who knows what the Championship is all about and what full-time rugby is all about."
Davey would appear to be in a strong position despite never having held the top job at a club.
Lowe confirmed: "Brett has applied and he is one of those we will give consideration to.
"He's coached in south Wales and has four or five years experience of coaching with Coventry, Cornish Pirates and ourselves in the Championship. He is a very strong candidate."
Whoever succeeds Howells at Castle Park, according to Lowe, will be taking the reins of a club that still harbours ambitions of one day joining the Premiership elite.
That long-term goal, though, will only be achieved if the club can generate a greater interest in the sport and the team, which would then have a knock-on effect on the playing budget.
"Our mantra at Doncaster has always been sustainability," said Lowe. "There remains an ambition to reach the Premiership and we wouldn't have done what we have done in the past – building a new stand etc – if that wasn't out long-term goal.
"That might be three to five years away but it remains our long-term goal.
"Our biggest priority in the immediate term is to get the crowds up. Our average gate is 1,200 to 1,300 people, but we want it to be 2,500 to 3,000 because the income that would generate would help us towards our goal.
"We cannot keep building stands if they're not going to be used.
"I don't think people by and large in Yorkshire are good followers of rugby union. Leeds are finding that to be the case in the Premiership.
"Doncaster has a population of 300,000 yet Doncaster Rovers' average home attendance is only 9,000. So that's around 10,000 people watching professional sport in the town during the winter seasons – less than five per cent.
"We have to do more to get people through the gate, whether that's more work in the community, more work in schools, whatever. We need the next generation to want to come to rugby matches in Doncaster."
On Saturday, Knights overcame gale force winds and driving rain to grind out a hard-fought victory over Welsh Premiership side Llandovery in their second British and Irish Cup group game in West Wales.
The conditions prevented running rugby but the Knights pack dominated throughout.
They had the advantage of the end-to-end gale in the first half and the pack drove incessantly towards the line. They went ahead when centre Pitala Gidlow found himself part of a 10-metre driving maul and crashed over for a try that fly-half Tristan Roberts converted.
After 20 minutes Roberts increased the lead with a penalty from in front of the posts and they increased their lead when flanker Zack Farivarz crossed wide out from a driving lineout and Roberts converted.
Llandovery fly-half Cerith Rees replied with a penalty in stoppage time. He made it 20-6 but missed another but the Knights pack had a 10-minute period camped on the home line and went close with a number of scrums and driving mauls.
As the game went into stoppage-time, Llandovery managed to get a foothold but the Doncaster defence held firm and they eventually turned over the ball. The Knights moved the ball quickly to the left and Roberts was put clear 60 metres out. Although he was caught 10 metres short, the Knights maintained the pressure and, after they were awarded a five-metre scrum, Gidlow became involved again with a driving maul and he crashed over for his second try that Roberts converted.
Howells said he felt that the Knights had got back on track after a run of four consecutive defeats.
Llandovery: Sauro, Thomas, Jacobs, Warren (Grundy 73), Ajuwa, Rees (Rogers 80), James, Evans, Parry (Wyn-Davies 58), Howells (A Jones 58), De Marigny (S Jones 72) , Vaughan (Harbut 54), Aiono, Welch, Reynolds (Phillips 14, 25, 64).
Doncaster Knights: McColl, Wright, Devlin (Briers 61), Gidlow, Flockhart, Roberts, Jones (Hampson 81), Corsar (Thiede 76), Lawrie, Thiede (Cussack 50), Kenworthy, Craig, Challinor, Rowan (Makaafi 58), Farivarz (Walker 80). Unused replacements: Doughty, Parsons.