Barnes stays upbeat in the face of mounting injuries

“Pretty stretched.”

 That was the analysis of Hartpury RFC Director of Rugby, John Barnes, when asked about playing resources for this Saturday’s home fixture against Ealing Trailfinders.

The Londoners are one of the last sides against which you want to be sub-par, particularly at a time when they are riding high in the Greene King IPA Championship and coming off the back of resounding 57-14 win over Doncaster Knights, but Barnes is hopeful that he will field a team that is capable of taking the points.

 “We’ll be putting out a side on Saturday that we believe can compete well and we’ll see how it goes from there,” he said.

“We’ve been unlucky in a couple of our home fixtures – in fact, they have all been pretty close.  We’ve been training well and we will be looking to see if we can get over the line this week.”

Hartpury’s resources were further stretched by a nasty injury to influential flanker, Rob Langley, at Bedford Blues in the last round of matches.

“Straight from the kick off Rob suffered multiple fractures in his face – cheekbone, jaw and eye socket, and he’s seeing a specialist to better understand what needs to be done,” Barnes said.

“Every team suffers with injuries, we’re no different from anybody else in that respect, but to lose guys like Steve Leonard, Harry Randall, Rob Langley, Alex Craig and Rupert Harden – some very important players – is pretty tough.  Still, we keep going!”

Langley’s early withdrawal was something that Hartpury certainly did not need, on what was already destined to be a testing evening at Goldington Road.

“We always knew that Bedford was going to be a tough place to go, particularly on a Friday night which is difficult for us, and against a very good team.  We obviously know that they are one of the best attacking sides in the league, but they surprised us a little bit with their physicality.

They were a big side and in the first half we struggled to cope with that, particularly once we had a player in the sin bin.  We did manage to raise our levels in the second half to get some points and there were certain aspects of the performance that we were pleased with.”

It will not get any more comfortable this weekend.  Trailfinders come to the Gillman’s Ground sitting second in the league table and the only side retaining any realistic chance of putting pressure on the unbeaten leaders, Bristol.

Ealing are up there for a reason,” said Barnes.

“They’re a very good team – they have only lost a couple of games, both narrowly away from home, and one of those was at Bristol.

They have been progressing very well over the past few years.  They have a got a big, full-time squad which is exceptionally well-prepared by Ben Ward and Alex Codling – certainly one of the best coaching teams in the Championship.  The detail that those guys go into is unbelievable and that is one of the reasons why they’re where they are.

We know that we’re going to be up against it, although they are a slightly different side away from their rubber crumb.  They will certainly want to maintain their challenge at the top, but we’re here to make life difficult for them.”

As is often the case, there will be a few familiar faces in the opposing ranks on Saturday.  Lock forward Harry Casson played many games in the red and black of Hartpury, both as a student and in the National Leagues, before launching his professional career, while prop James Gibbons was another to play many times for both College and RFC.  Centre Lewis Jones was in the Leeds Beckett side that lost to Hartpury in the 2014 BUCS final at Twickenham.

Saturday’s fixture at the Gillman’s Ground kicks off at 2.30pm.

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