Just before the Spanish Sevens team embark on their last stop of the World Rugby Series in Paris, head coach Pedro de Matias outlined his ambitions for the tournament.
“We want to be at the top, we want to feel that we can play against anyone and control the game,” he said.
“We don’t want to wait and see what the opposition does but we want to go out and play and attack our rival in every phase of play.”
Although the Spaniards were unable to win a medal, they achieved an impressive 20-7 victory over an ill-disciplined England side to claim seventh place.
Following series in Dubai, Sydney, Kitakyushu, Langford and Paris, Australia topped the overall standings with Spain finding themselves in seventh position above the likes of England, Ireland and Fiji.
As seen from his comments before the tournament in France, de Matias appears determined for his side to close the gap on those at the top.
After calling an end to his professional career at 25, the Spaniard decided to focus his attentions on coaching at his former club CAU Valencia Rugby.
“I believe what must define a manager is the passion to work every day in the best possible way and provide for your work colleagues and the players who you train,” he said.
“I’m a Physical Education graduate, I like different professional areas related with my studies and training is therefore part of that.
“I like to study sport in general and the performance analysis, so I’m privileged to be able to do something that I like.”
Following contributions to the Under 16 and Under 18 set-ups, he was offered the chance to manage Las Leonas XII last September and he is confident about the development of the sport in the country.
“Rugby is developing in a lot of places in Spain,” he said.
“It’s clear that the women’s First Division (Liga Iberdrola) with 8 clubs has 5 from Madrid but every time, there are more clubs that start working with the female section and take care of the players’ environment, so the competition is going to increase and from the Federation, we must help the development in different areas of Spain because that is positive for rugby.”
Las Leones XV head coach Jose Antonio Barrio stated that the sport had seen a rise in media attention in recent years, and De Matias is adamant they can play a fundamental role in helping the game progress in Spain.
He said: “The press should be closer to rugby but the sport must be accessible, create competitions and tell exciting and motivating stories which generate interest and lastly, we should look after those publications that speak about us because in this way, we’ll be able to succeed in introducing our sport to those who don’t know about it and start to gain an interest.”
Despite leading the Sevens side to an unprecedented fourth place finish in the World Series in Japan, de Matias believes that progression cannot not be solely judged by results alone.
“What’s important is everything behind the scenes, on a daily basis and the work that I’m developing,” he said.
“One of the most satisfying things is that I have trained a lot of players and every time I see them, they always show affection towards me therefore I think that they have a good perception of what I brought to them in their personal growth as a player.”
Competing in the series throughout the season has enabled the head coach to take note of other top nations and he was very complementary of the fight of the French, the speed of New Zealand, the technical skills of Australia and Ireland and the versatility of the Japanese.
Taking this on board, he wants Spain to have their own style and be able to implement them with new ideas.
“We must be a versatile team that knows how to adapt to different situations that presents itself,” he said.
“Without losing creativity, be capable of challenging every team and being able to beat anyone.
“We need to improve our consistency and take care of the details such as the elements that make the difference at the highest level. We also should be able to get the most out of each player in the key moments of the competition.”
Las Leonas XII are currently preparing for this weekend’s European Sevens Grand Prix in Marcoussis, France with Russia, Germany and Belgium in group A.
This will be seen as preparation before the start of the World Cup which takes place in San Francisco next month, where Spain will face an ever improving Fiji side.
Photo Credit: @ Federación Española de Rugby – Borja Heredero