Having rotated the playing resources heavily for last weekend’s trip to Ealing Trailfinders, Hartpury are back to picking from close to a full deck for this week’s visit of table-topping Newcastle Falcons.
This will be the fourth time that Hartpury have faced the Falcons in a little over four months and, with Dean Richards’ men currently standing at 100% in both league and cup this season, the game represents the only remaining chance that Hartpury have to make any kind of dent in that record.
Falcons haven’t necessarily had plain sailing in every game this season – they finished only one score ahead of Nottingham two weeks ago, while Ampthill outscored them after the break and picked up a four-try bonus point in a stirring second half revival at Kingston Park last Sunday.
However, Hartpury will need to sharpen up considerably from last week’s effort if they are going to trouble the northerners this Saturday.
The only position with a significant personnel concern is at loose-head, where Mike Flook and Des Merrey picked up injuries ahead of and during the Ealing match. The experienced Dan Murphy is also missing, having failed to shake off the effects of a dead-leg. Thankfully, promising youngster Olly Adkins – a BUCS-winner for Hartpury last season and an England U20 player who has already appeared for the Gloucester first team – is available to make his first Championship start.
Hookers Will Tanner and Will Crane are seemingly interchangeable these days and it is the former who gets the nod to start on Saturday.
Jake Armstrong continues at tight-head, while Simon Linsell and John Hawkins are reunited at lock. The back row of Akapusi Qera, Sam Graham and Seb Nagle-Taylor has a competitive look, with Will Safe to add impact. Warriors second-row, James Scott, is part of the squad for the first time in 2020.
The back division is largely that which helped to achieve the win over Coventry in the previous home game. George Simpson returns after being ineligible against his parent club, as does centre Luke Eves, himself a former Falcon. Sam Goatley is the only change from the Coventry line-up, returning after missing the last two matches.
This weekend’s match kicks off at 2.30pm and will be followed by a live screening of Scotland vs England on a giant screen in the Hartpury Sports Academy, where bar facilities will be available.