Newly-arrived scrum-half Richard Bolt is relishing the challenge represented by the up-coming Greene King IPA Championship season, but is under no illusions regarding the size of the task ahead.
The ex-Stade Rouennais lynch-pin – who has moved to Hartpury in tandem with former club-mate and half-back partner, Luke Cozens – is no stranger to rugby at this level, having started his professional career at Exeter, back in the days before Sandy Park and Premiership glory.
Originally hailing from Okehampton in Devon, ‘Bolty’ attended Exeter College before joining the Chiefs and his subsequent career saw him at Bristol – playing alongside the likes of Junior Academy Manager and scrum coach, Wayne Thompson – and at Harlequins.
Although Bolt only spent a single season at The Stoop, it was memorable one, with Richard seeing plenty of game-time as the Londoners picked up their first and, so far, only Premiership title in the 2011-12 season.
Seeking a new challenge, Bolt then linked up with former Gloucester, Bristol and Worcester Warriors coach, Richard Hill, in Rouen, which is where his partnership with Cozens was formed.
“I was there for four seasons and it was a great experience,” he said.
“Eventually, though, it was time to come back. I bought a house in Bristol about a year and a half ago which I’d never lived in, and my girlfriend is there as well.
I’m also getting to stage where I need think about life outside the game. I’m looking to promote my own personal training business, so playing at Hartpury – where it is part-time – is absolutely perfect for me.
I was aware that Luke and I would be leaving Rouen at the same time and he had the contacts here, as he had played for Hartpury before. In addition, I heard that Hartpury might be looking for a scrum-half, so I put my name forward and things worked out well for me.”
Clearly, Bolt will bring a lot of experience to the Hartpury side, but what else should supporters expect from the new nine?
“I think that my passing and kicking games are both good,” he said. “Obviously, I’ve been around a bit now so I’d like to think that I’ve also got a lot to offer in terms of game management – knowing when to speed things up or slow things down.
A big part of my job is to try and take some of the pressure off the 10 and to control the pack.”
How has Bolt found the transition back from French rugby?
“It’s been great, so far,” he said. “Even though we are part-time, I have found Hartpury to be an extremely professional environment. Everybody holds themselves to very high standards and that is clear to see just from the training. Rouen was very ‘French’ and things were often quite relaxed.
I’m expecting the Championship to be very tough league with a high level of intensity. In France, we would probably only play three weeks out of four whereas here we’ve got games every week. Also, in France we got three weeks off over Christmas and New Year, while here we’ve a got a Championship game on 28th December!”
Bolt has had an early taste of rugby at Hartpury, with pre-season run-outs against Bristol Bears and Worcester Warriors. He will be involved in tonight’s trip to National 1 neighbours, Cinderford, as Hartpury gear up for next Friday’s big Championship opener, at home to Yorkshire Carnegie (7.45pm).