Ireland X-League international Rich Clancy believes that the Warrington Warriors are setting a template that future X-League clubs can follow.
The Warriors have been set up specifically to play our variant of rugby league, and are approaching the game with a seriousness and sense of purpose that is bringing results.
Clancy found X-League and the Warriors after retiring from open age rugby recently.
“I’ve always liked rugby league, but I never really started playing it until towards the back end of school,” he explained to X-LeagueRL.com.
“I was playing for Rylands for coming up to 10 years before they folded, so I was part of the last team of the open age before it folded.
“Then all the lads wondered where they’d go, some said they were going to go to Woolston, but I wasn’t really interested in that.
“My knee was playing up by that point, so I thought I’d call time on it.
“Then, you know what happens when you stop playing you get itchy feet. You miss the changing room and all the banter.
“I started playing Touch, but couldn’t really get into it. It’s alright to play in a social setting, but when it comes to playing games, it wasn’t for me, it doesn’t really feel like rugby.
“I think it’s good for learning sidestepping and stuff like that, but for someone who’s played second row, I like running lines.
“In Touch, if you hit a good line and burst through a gap someone could touch your shoelace and that’s tackle complete.
“Then I heard about Paul Flannery setting up Warrington Warriors X-League, so I went down there and I’m still there.”
Flannery is coaching players to play X-League to the best of their ability – a tactic that may bring good results for not just X-League but rugby league as a whole.
“We train once a week, and he puts on a bit of warm up for everyone for about half an hour and then about half an hour of a game.
“But it’s run like you would have an amateur game set up. It’s not just turn up and let’s throw the ball about, you take what you’ve learned in the warm-up through into the game.
“You’ve got to put two moves you’ve learned in the warm-up on before you can score, that sort of thing.
“It’s getting people that are new to rugby involved. You always get people who have always wanted to play but they’re reluctant to get hit.
“So they’re playing this game but they’re not necessarily clued up on positions and on what lines to run.”
Newcomers to rugby league have found that X-League with the Warriors has been a great way to pick up rugby league fundamentals.
“It’s so encouraging that there’s three or four lads down there who only started playing three or four months ago, and they’re flying. They’ve picked it up really well,” Clancy said.
“If you put them straight into an open age team like Woolston or Crosfields, you’d lose them, because it’s too much too soon.”
Clancy admits that he was somewhat sceptical about the concept behind X-League to begin with, but now he is a keen proponent of its virtues.
“I wasn’t sold on it at first,” he said.
“People were telling me about it and I was like ‘Eh? You tackle the ball?’
“I didn’t really get it. Then, once you play it you realise that it’s pretty much rugby just without someone slamming you into the floor.”