Hartpury have rotated heavily for their Championship Cup fixture with Jersey Reds, in order to give their whole squad optimal game-time ahead of the opening Greene King IPA Championship fixture with Doncaster Knights, on October 12th.
Into the starting fifteen come nine players who were either on the bench or not involved last weekend. Eight of the overall 23 will be getting their first action of the season, while local boy Jack Preece and Worcester Warriors back-three player, Nick David, the latter on dual registration, will be making their club debuts.
This is very much in line with the club’s strategy of building toward the start of the new league season.
Last Saturday saw a 44-22 defeat at Doncaster, with an equally embryonic side featuring nine debutants, although the performance offered encouragement to Director of Rugby, John Barnes.
“We were quite pleased, overall,” he said. “The score-line didn’t really reflect the game.”
“We started off with a nightmare charge-down to put ourselves on the back foot but, apart from that, we were very competitive throughout the first half and there was next to nothing in it at the break.”
“The second half was largely a story of us not taking our chances while they took theirs. We fell off a little bit at the end and they had a strong bench to bring on.”
“Ultimately, there were a lot of positives. We had a number of new signings playing and also a few lads stepping up to this level for the first time.”
“We were happy that we scored three tries, one of which was exceptional. We’ve given the guys more licence to ‘play’ this year and we’re definitely looking to score more tries.”
“Having said that, we can’t concede 40 points and expect to win, so defence is still something to work on.”
Hartpury enjoyed a land mark win in Jersey during a very strong run-in to the close of last season – undoubtedly one of the results that secured Championship survival. But there is no question that both the Reds – and the Falcons in the following week – will represent major challenges.
“Jersey are likely to be a similar team to that which we’ve faced over the past two seasons,” said Barnes.
“A very strong, physical pack, with a very well-drilled set piece. Added to that, they’ve got some excellent finishers – particularly in the back three – so this is going to be a tough encounter.”
“But that’s exactly what we need at this stage of the season.”
Supporters are reminded that this game will kick off at the slightly earlier time of 2pm, to be followed, almost immediately, by Gloucester-Hartpury Women versus Wasps Ladies at 4pm – a pretty good Saturday afternoon!