Hartpury were handed the most exciting, and almost certainly toughest, of starts as it was announced that their opening Championship fixture would be at Ashton Gate, the home of local giants and recent Aviva Premiership side Bristol Rugby.
There is every reason to suspect that the ground will be packed to the rafters for this local derby, almost certainly making it the largest crowd that the Gloucestershire club will have performed in front of in their 13-year history.
As if it were needed, the occasion will have some added spice thanks to the close connections on both sides. Director of Rugby, John Barnes, started his coaching career at Bristol, whilst senior players Rhys Oakley, Wayne Thompson and Luke Eves all made plenty of appearances in blue and white, as did backs coach Jonny Goodridge.
In addition, a group of the younger Hartpury players have spent time in the Bristol Academy and there were a number playing in the Bristol A-League squad last season.
On the other side of the coin, Bristol’s management and coaching staff includes Alan Matinovic, Sean Marsden and Mark Irish, who all spent time at the College. The playing squad was recently bolstered by Mat Protheroe, Joe Batley and Dan Thomas. Ireland international and former Hartpury lock forward, Dan Tuohy, is already part of what will be a star-studded squad, coached by Pat Lam.
The game will be played on 1st, 2nd or 3rd September. We will add the full fixture list to the website shortly.