New Mersea Island coach George Fouche predicts better times ahead

HE has played top level rugby in both England and South Africa and still acts as a consultant to a host of Premiership clubs and the RFU.

Now George Fouche is hoping to mastermind a renaissance at relegation-threatened Mersea Island, starting with an expected return to the Eastern Counties next season.

The 2010/11 season in London 3 North East will not be too fondly recalled by most at the coastal club. But it could actually be a key time in Mersea’s future after Fouche came on board in January.

Having played for Cardiff and London Irish as well as representing the World Cup-winning South Africa schools sides, Fouche said he is enjoying turning his attention to rugby on his doorstep.

“I find it quite refreshing working at the grassroots level,” Fouche explained. “I still consult for Premiership clubs and the RFU on a regular basis but it is nice to put something back into the community and I am really enjoying being around a smashing bunch of lads. With the right guidance, I can see the club being a real force in the future.”

After moving to the Colchester area, Fouche actually approached Mersea Island after they suffered something of a coaching crisis.

Coach Andrew Skipper joined National League 1 side Cambridge RFC before team manager Rob Hinton and assistant coach Nick Woodland were both deployed to Afghanistan.

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Fouche, whose Godfather Schalk Liebenberg actually coached Mersea for five years in the 1990s, was initially appointed as director of rugby before taking on the coaching role until Hinton and Woodford return.

Bottom of London 3 North East, relegation seems a certainty with the club confirming that they hope to play in Eastern Counties 1 next season - probably swapping places with Stowmarket.

Fouche said: “The club are in a rebuilding stage. We have put in a number of young players recently and we have seen a big improvement in the amount of people coming training. When I first joined, there was less than 10 people turning up - now it is up to 35.

“I see Mersea RFC as the sleeping giant of the Eastern Counties and I think next season we will see a totally different side.”

South-African born, Fouche played at the highest level in his native country for Eastern Province and Blue Bulls. But his playing career was cut short by a serious injury.

He then set up a company developing rugby coaches for senior schools - some of which have already helped with training at Mersea Island.

Club chairman Colin Ainslie said: “I am very excited about working with one of the best coaches in the Eastern Counties. We are very fortunate as a small club to welcome such an outstanding rugby personality to our club.”

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