Pre-season reaches a new level this weekend when Hartpury RFC make the short trip up the M5 to Sixways, home of the Worcester Warriors.
This will be the first time that Hartpury have ever faced up to a current Aviva Premiership club and is another reminder of quite how far the side have traveled in their relatively short history.
The match comes after weeks of hard work by both players and coaches as the club prepares for their first ever season in the Greene King IPA Championship.
“It’s been good” said Hartpury’s Director of Rugby, John Barnes (pictured). “We’ve had an unusually high number of new players coming in, compared to recent seasons. There’s been a lot to work on, in terms of detail and in educating guys on the way that we play, compared to where they have come from.
There have been a lot of long sessions, but hopefully we’re getting close to where we need to be.”
What are the hopes and expectations as far as the Warriors fixture is concerned?
“We’re playing a Premiership squad so we know what we’re likely to be up against. I always find it good to play against a team from the league above in pre-season, to give you a real test and help you to discover where you really are.
It’s likely to be one of the hardest games we’ll play all season – we’ve done it with Ealing Trailfinders in the past few years but now we are at this level it is great to be able to have this fixture with Worcester.
It will be a big challenge. Like any pre-season game we are looking for people to perform well and produce what we have been working on for the past few weeks. Of course, it would also be great to come away without any injuries!
It’s going to be regular 40 minutes each way, although both teams will be bringing big squads and I expect there will be plenty of rotation.”
There is no team news from either camp at present, but Warriors have enough quality throughout their ranks to ensure that Barnes’ charges do get a proper work-out this Saturday.
Recent British Lion Ben Teo and former Springboks Francois Hougaard and Wynand Olivier, along with another ex-Lion, Irish lock Donncha O’Callaghan are among the star attractions at Sixways, but Worcester have strength in depth and comfortably survived in the Premiership last season, despite an eventual 11th-place finish.
It will be good to potentially catch up with former Hartpury student Ryan Mills, now a key man in the Warriors squad and on the verge of the full England squad at the end of the last campaign, whilst back row forward Mat Gilbert will be returning to the club which he served for two seasons before re-joining Hartpury a year ago.
Prop Mike Daniels is another former Warrior now in Red & Black, although a minor operation will see him side-lined for the next few weeks. Daniels, though, is the only long-term absentee in a squad that is in good health, and good spirits, as our first ‘game-day’ of the 2017-18 season approaches.
As a reminder, Saturday’s match kicks off at 4pm and tickets are available from the Warriors website.
For those unable to make the trip, there will be another chance to see the lads in pre-season action, at home, when we welcome Rosslyn Park to the Gillmans Ground on Saturday 19th August, kick off 2.30pm. Entry to that match is free to all comers.