Hartpury University Centre will be boosted by the return of two key players as they bid to keep their BUCS Super Rugby title ambitions on track this week.
Back row Sebastian Negri returns from international duty with the Italy Development squad to skipper the league leaders at home to Leeds Beckett University on Wednesday (23rd, 2pm kick-off), while centre Jamie Forrester is back after a spell out with a cheek injury. Scrum-half Harry Cochrane could also return to the replacements bench as he makes his way back from an injury.
The Hartpury University Centre side returned to the Super Rugby summit last Friday when they battled back from an 8-0 half-time deficit to do the double over Northumbria in the curtain raiser to Newcastle Falcons’ clash with Exeter.
That 26-11 success maintains their unbeaten run and puts them two points clear at the top with a game in hand on nearest challengers, Loughborough, whose Saturday side Hartpury RFC will face in National League One this weekend.
This will be the first time Hartpury and Leeds Beckett have met in the BUCS Super Rugby format, but the two teams are far from strangers.
They last met in the quarter-finals of the BUCS Championship last season, with Hartpury taking the win by a single point and then exiting the competition at the semi-final stage. The previous season, Hartpury lost 28-17 to the northerners on a rain-lashed day in Leeds in the semi-finals, with their vanquishers going on to take the title at Twickenham. Hartpury last won the BUCS Championship in 2014.
Director of Rugby, John Barnes, said: “Leeds Beckett are currently bottom of the BUCS Super Rugby without a win to their name but we won’t be reading too much into that. All of their six games have been close, losing most only by a score, so they clearly haven’t had a lot of luck.
“We’ve always faced them in the knockout stages of BUCS and our games against them have generally been very tight. With the pitch likely to be pretty boggy after all this rain, that’s likely to be a leveller too.
“We didn’t have the best first half last week against Northumbria but they threw everything at us and we kept the score down before getting on top in the second half, controlling the ball and dominating territory to score four good tries.
“We’re in a good position – top of the table having played one less games than the runners-up – and the mood among the players is positive heading into this week‘s game.”
Leeds Beckett head into Wednesday’s clash on the back of a 27-13 defeat to Loughborough. The match will be played on the main pitch and entry is free.