The value of the Hartpury ‘production line’ is well-illustrated, as Hartpury RFC name their squad for tomorrow night’s curtain-raiser, vs Yorkshire Carnegie, at the Gillman’s Ground.
No fewer than nine of those named are either currently studying here, or recently graduated. Back row forwards Mat Gilbert and Rob Langley, as well as returning fly-half Luke Cozens, are all alumni of a slightly earlier vintage.
Additionally – and making his competitive debut as skipper – lock forward Simon Linsell has recently joined the Red & Blacks from the University of Exeter, where he captained their BUCS Super Rugby side through a number of lively encounters with Hartpury.
Other debutants include Ben Foley and Jake Henry, both signed from Rotherham Titans over the summer, and in-coming student, Bristol Academy fly-half Nathan Chamberlain.
Richard Bolt – who has a Premiership-winners medal in his locker from his time with Harlequins – will make his league debut for Hartpury at scrum-half, although his partnership with Cozens is already well-established, following four seasons playing together in France.
A number of players were unavailable for selection due to knocks collected during pre-season, although the majority are not thought to be long-term absentees. However, promising flanker, Max Clementson, another recent graduate, may miss up to two months with a broken bone in his foot, while the club await details of a shoulder injury to full-back, Mike Wilcox.
Hartpury and Carnegie were involved in two very close results last season, with a draw in Gloucestershire and a narrow home win at Headingley.
Supporters of both sides might like to know that all proceeds from programme sales at the ground will be donated to a fund being raised to support Hartpury player/coach, Rhys Oakley, who is currently fighting cancer. Oakley, who led Hartpury through their historic unbeaten promotion season in 2016-17, represented Carnegie (then Leeds Tykes) earlier in his career, playing more than 130 games for the Yorkshiremen in a 5-year spell at the club.
Tomorrow’s game kicks off at 7.45pm.