LooseHead Rob undertook an interview this week with Netherlands Player/Coach Storm Carroll in order to find out a little more about the growth of Rugby in The Netherlands.
RS: Hi Storm, thanks for your time…can you tell us a little bit about your time with the Netherlands national team? Your experiences, your rugby life, your highs, your lows?
SC: I came to the Netherlands in 2004 after a year out of school, too get more experience at playing fly half as I played most my rugby career at outside centre. I only wanted to stay for 1 season and go back to New Zealand an try to make the ITM team (Hawkes Bay). In my short time here, I felt at home because of the massive Kiwi influence in the Castricum Rugby Club. I ended up extending my contract with Castricum as I felt I could be more of an influence on Dutch rugby and could helo to bring a new style of play to the competition. 12 years later I am still trying my best to be a positive influence on Dutch rugby.
Some Lows: Missing the winning kick in the national ereklasse final against Den Haag 2014
Highs: Winning 8 national ereklasse championships (Going for 10) 😉
Netherlands Rugby Team : 2012- Current (27 caps)
Played in Rugby World Cup qualifiers against Israel and Germany
Germany game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkHW-e0ITfU&t=171s
Won promotion from Rugby Europe 1B and 1A pools.
In 2016-2017, helped towards Netherlands finishing 2nd in the Rugby European trophy, behind Portugal.
Nominated for player of the year in 2012 and 2013.
2012 Dutch Exiles – Captain (This team was created to help the Dutch team with preparation for the upcoming season. The team was made up of foreigners based in the Netherlands and Dutch players who had missed out on selection.)
2004-2009 Castricum Rugby Club
2x 7s Championships
2x ING Cup Champions (top teams from Netherlands and Belgium)
2010-Current Rugby Club Hilversum
3x 7s Championships
RS: How have the Netherlands Rugby team been performing in recent years?
SC: We have steadily improved throughout recent years and in my time with the Netherlands team we have promoted in to the European nations trophy, where we placed 2nd in our first season behind Portugal.
Our performances have been helped with a new South African coach, Gareth Gilbert and with the help from some very experienced overseas players with Dutch heritage. This has made us even more motivated to do well in the coming season.
RS: You are currently a player/coach – how do you find this?
SC: It’s been a great learning experience being a player/coach for the the Netherlands rugby team. It’s challenging and rewarding all at the same time and I have learnt so much about myself with this experience. I still have lots to learn of course and will make the most of my time with all the coaches involved.
RS: Do you find the transition between being a player and coach difficult/easy to manage?
SC: The transition between being a player and coach I found a little difficult. I focused more on the coaching side and it had an effect on my playing side unfortunately. I do most my coaching on the field while playing and find that much easier to do for some reason.
This season I stepped down from my coaching role with the Dutch team to focus more on being a better player for the team. Our new backs coach (Zane Gardiner) is a great teacher and we can learn so much from his experience. However he still has me making up the strike moves for the backs. 😉
There will be a future for me as a player/coach again but while I can still play I want to put all my energy in playing.
RS: Are there any Dutch players we should expect to keep an eye on for the future? Are any players destined for great things?
SC: There are some very good and exciting young Dutch players coming through the ranks who have the potential to take Dutch rugby to the next level.
Amir Rademakar (Playing in Belgium)
David Weersma (Playing in France)
There are also young Dutch players who are very good and have decided to play overseas to further their rugby careers, just like Tim Visser (Scotland, Harlequins) and Zeno Kieft (La Rochelle). It is a big loss for Dutch rugby but the inspiration they can give to the next generation of young Dutch rugby players is amazing.
RS: What do you make of the Dutch league setup? Can you tell us more about this?
SC: The Ereklasse (top Dutch competition) has 12 teams from all over the country and a season consist of 2 rounds and a final. The first round consist of playing each team once. Round 2, the top 6 teams from the first round play each other twice (home and away) and bottom 6 teams do the same. Top 2 teams from each pool (Top 6, bottom 6) at the end of round 2 go on to play the final.
In my opinion the Dutch season is too long and should be much shorter and intense. What I would prefer is 8 teams in the Ereklasse, home and away games, semi-finals, finals. This will give more time to the Dutch team and a 7s competition.
RS: How does the standard of Dutch Rugby in the Ereklasse fare?
SC: As im getting older the Dutch competition is getting much tougher. More younger, stronger and fitter players are starting to rise through the ranks and a lot more foreigners playing also. It’s great for the competition as we can expect more consistently tougher games.
RS: What is the standard of Dutch Rugby like at International level? Which teams are of similar structure/standard?
SC: The standard of Dutch rugby at international level is growing stronger every year that I have been part of the team (5 years). We would struggle with the physicality of most the eastern European teams and over the years we developed a fast more skilful structure to our game and now we are able to compete and win comfortably. This structure we are passing down to the youth teams so they are already ready by the time they reach senior level.
Having a big influence of players from all over the world, our structure is based around the All Blacks. Fast, skilful and a willing to play from anywhere on the pitch. We use there structure and make it our own to suit the different style of players we have from around the world. Teams with similar structure in my experience are Portugal, Switzerland and Sweden.
RS: Has the growth of rugby in the Netherlands been difficult with the primary focus being on football as a country?
SC: Playing here for over 10 years I have seen rugby grow in numbers every year. I have seen players leave to better themselves in bigger rugby countries and have seen kids grow through the club system and are now flourishing in the top division.
Only recently Dutch television started playing rugby live on tv from the 2015 Rugby World Cup to the 6 Nations. The popularity of the sport has grown so much from it.
RS: With the Dutch football team not doing so great in recent years, has this benefitted the Dutch rugby team whatsoever?
SC: It is disappointing that the football team is out of the World Cup, as the entire country really comes alive and the atmosphere is electric. I think the Dutch union are trying their best to use this window as a way of promoting rugby and the Rugby World Cup 2019.
RS: Are there any plans for the future of Dutch Rugby? What would you like to see from Dutch Rugby?
SC: What I would love to see is rugby being developed at school level and eventually making a school competition (both 15s and 7s). School level is where we can teach the basic skills and culture of the sport.
I would also love to see and be part of the Dutch team to win the Rugby European trophy competition and reach the Rugby European Championship competition