It’s been a while since Toby Venner last pulled on the Red & Black of Hartpury, but that’s exactly what he’ll be doing on Saturday as he makes his first appearance of this shortened season, on dual registration from Gloucester Rugby. Hartpury will be looking to extend a record of home wins against visitors Coventry which stretches back to the 2015-16 season.
He is 50% of a completely fresh scrum half duo, as Matty Jones is named on the bench, after missing the Ampthill trip last Sunday with a dead-leg.
Venner came through the university rugby ranks at Hartpury and made two BUCS Super Rugby Final appearances – a winner on both occasions – before signing for Gloucester in the summer of 2020. In a small twist of fate, he’ll be lining up alongside two players who opposed him in the first of those finals – Aled Ward and George Simpson both played in 2018 match for Cardiff Met. Harry Wilson, Will Crane, Max Clementson and Luke Stratford all played for Hartpury that day, with Stratford grabbing the last-minute winning try.
Venner has already worn the Cherry & White first team jersey this season, marking his Gloucester debut – away to Premiership and European Champions, Exeter Chiefs, no less – with a brace of tries, both run in with express pace.
He will be partnered on Saturday with James Williams, who retains the 10 shirt after an impressive display amid the mayhem at Ampthill last week. With Joshua Bragman also included in the starting fifteen, at full back, Hartpury have two very solid options from the kicking tee – Williams was seven from eight last Sunday, striking the post with the one that got away.
The remaining backs are unchanged from last weekend apart from on the wing, where an injury to Jack Johnson means that leading try-scorer Ben Foley steps neatly back into the starting line-up.
There is one change in the pack with Aled Ward returning for his first start since picking up a knock at Ealing, joining Will Safe and Morgan Monks in a powerful-looking back row. The remainder of the forwards are those that started the match so well last week. Max Clementson misses out with a rib injury (but may be enjoyed as a member of the livestream commentary team).
There is a bit more movement on the bench, where Mitchell Walsh is back as the option at tight-head. Apart from the afore-mentioned Jones, there are also returns for George Simpson and for Sam Goatley, the latter in his first involvement of any sort this year, having been injured through the early weeks of the season.
Tomorrow’s match kicks off at 1pm. Livestream coverage starts at 12.40pm and you can purchase your access HERE