Greene King IPA Championship action returns to the Gillman’s Ground for the first time since October this evening, where the visitors are league leaders and promotion favourites, London Irish.
Hartpury have spent the past several weeks involved in a fruitless Championship Cup campaign and will be feeling that the real business of the season resumes tonight.
Clearly, the Irish – whom Hartpury also faced at home and away in their Cup group – represent a very significant obstacle in whatever competition, but the Red & Blacks know that results over the next few weeks, particularly in the home matches, will be critical to their chances of Championship survival.
The Exiles were winners in both of the Cup encounters and will be powerful again at the Gillman’s Ground tonight, but Hartpury will reflect that they are, at least, close to getting their strongest group of players on the pitch.
Back row forward, Rob Langley, remains a notable absentee, but otherwise most of the injury worries that have dogged the Gloucestershire side through the season so far appear to be resolving themselves.
Additionally, the big recent addition to the side, Fijian international Akapusi Qera, will be making his Championship debut for the club, having shown up well during his first outing in the narrow Cup defeat to Bedford Blues.
With Steve Leonard and Luke Eves resuming their formerly successful partnership in the centres, the midfield has a familiar look, while young fly-half, Sam Leeming, has been given the nod at 10.
England U-20 international, Tom Seabrook, and Ben Foley start on either wing, while Jake Henry is available, from the bench, for the first time in many matches.
Richard Bolt is selected at scrum-half, although Gloucester’s Charlie Chapman returns to offer a pacy alternative as a replacement.
Former Exiles prop, Dan Murphy, who played the final quarter versus Bedford, returns for his first start since October, having fully recovered from a calf injury. In the back row, former Bristol skipper, Iain Grieve, is another to play his first game in more than two months after a long injury lay off.
There is one debutant among the replacements as Hartpury student and Gloucester Academy prop, Olly Adkins, an AASE winner with Hartpury last season, is named.
The match kicks off at 7.45pm. Tickets can be purchased at the gate.