Incoming fly-half Luke Cozens is excited to be starting his second spell with Hartpury RFC and believes that club is well-placed to build on last season’s solid first showing in the Green King IPA Championship.
Now 31 and back in Gloucestershire after a five-year spell playing in France, he is confident that his experience can be instrumental in helping the Red & Blacks secure some of the wins that so narrowly eluded them in the last campaign.
“I’m told that Hartpury collected the highest number of losing bonus points across the Championship last year, so clearly we weren’t that far away in many of the games. There were also a number of games lost, late on, from winning positions,” he said.
Scrum half partner, Richard Bolt, has also joined Hartpury after a long spell playing alongside Cozens in France and the new play-maker is convinced that their mutual experience and understanding will be crucial in the months ahead.
“The squad will have learnt a lot in that first Championship season and the things that we can bring in should mean that we can spend the season looking up the table, rather than down”, said Cozens.
“Obviously, the playing relationship that I have with ‘Bolty’ is going to make the transition a lot easier. I like to think that I’m a well-organised player and that I will have the game-management skills to see us home, assuming that we can get our heads in front as we did so many times last year.
I’ll be looking to keep the goal-kicking percentage as high as possible and I don’t mind a little drop goal now and again!
Pre-season has been going really well here and we are progressing week on week. There are definitely some high quality players about, including a lot of the university guys. We need to keep our performance levels high for 80 minutes and learn to hang on to the ball.
I understand that Hartpury were defensively strong and well-organised last season, so if we can use the ball better in attack we will make life a lot easier for ourselves. The objective has got to be upper mid-table.”
Cozens first played for Hartpury during the 2012-13 season, in National League 2, coinciding with his one year of study at the University Centre where he completed a BSc Sports Studies top-up degree.
Prior to that, he had spent four years at Bath on an academy contract and also at Bath University, during which he won representative honours by playing for England at Under-20 level.
A Bath native, he decided to move on once it became clear that Premiership opportunities at the Rec were likely to be few and far between, spending a couple of seasons playing in Spain and another in the south of France before his first spell in Gloucestershire.
His next stop, after Hartpury, was at Stade Rouennais (Rouen) in Normandy, where he teamed up with former Gloucester, Bristol and Worcester Warriors coach, Richard Hill, to help propel the French club through the divisions.
“I wasn’t originally planning to stay all that long”, he says, “but in the end I was there for five years. Last season we lost in a promotion play-off final, just missing out on the chance to get into the Pro D2, which is the second tier in France and a pretty serious league.”
“French rugby is still a little bit old-school” he said. “The clubs are very much part of the community and people still get together for a drink after the game. Some of those attitudes extend to the training field and I’m expecting the Championship to be quite a bit more serious and professional.
I’d always stayed in contact with (Hartpury Director of Rugby) John Barnes and as soon as he phoned me it was an easy decision to come back. The time was right for me and my memories of Hartpury were of playing good, attacking rugby – it’s enjoyable, and that’s what makes me want to play.”