There are new combinations across the board as Hartpury University RFC name their squad to play the Ospreys in a pre-season fixture at The Gnoll, the famous home of Neath RFC, Friday night (7.30pm).
The extent of the off-season recruitment becomes clear in the starting XV. Match skipper Luke Carter forms an all-new half-back partnership with Josh Bragman, the latter arriving from University of Northumbria in the BUCS Super Rugby competition.
There are further new arrivals in the three-quarters, where Sam Goatley, Dan Koster and George Simpson (from Clifton, Pirates and Ealing Trailfinders, respectively) all make their first RFC appearances alongside the more familiar faces of Luke Eves and Mike Wilcox.
In the pack, there is a very welcome return at Number 8 for Will Safe, now signed full-time at Hartpury, who is joined by new flankers Jack Preece – very much a “local” – and former England Sevens player, Seb Nagle-Taylor.
James Scott – who, like prop Kai Owen and winger Alex Hearle will be available on dual-registration from the Worcester Warriors this season – joins another new signing, former Coventry and DMP lock Tom Jubb in the engine room.
Only the starting front row will have a more familiar look, where established props Des Merrey and Mike Flook will be joined by BUCS skipper Will Crane, who is like a new signing having missed virtually all of last season through injury.
As is usual on these occasions, there is a big bench. There area a lot of current and recent BUCS Super Rugby players involved, including many who had a run out in last week’s 42-0 success at Clifton. News names, in addition to Owen and Hearle, include tight-head Ashley Challenger, formerly of Dings Crusaders. There is experience too, in the shape of Rupert Harden and Akapusi Qera.
There are a few players missing with niggles, notably Will Tanner, Dan Murphy and Iain Grieve, although none are thought to be long term absentees.
The Ospreys have also named their squad. They will be skippered by former Kingsholm favourite, James Hook, and a further notable inclusion is former Hartpury student, AASE and BUCS-winning back row forward, Morgan Morris.