Full-back George Simpson picked up a brace of good tries on the last occasion that that Hartpury met London Scottish, at the Richmond Athletic Ground back in October.
On that day, Hartpury cut loose in a way that hasn’t always been seen at this level, in achieving a deserved 19-62 victory. However Scottish gave a good account of themselves up front, particularly in the first half, and were close on the scoreboard at the interval.
Since then, Simpson has largely had to be patient as Ben Foley has generally worn the 15 shirt in a settled back division, although his performances off the bench have always been exactly what the team needed at the time.
He now gets another chance in his favoured position, as a degree of rotation and some enforced changes create that opportunity. Sam Smith, ever-present this season, moves to the bench for this week and James Williams shifts, from 10, to replace the injured Charlie Foley at 12. Williams, high amongst the Championship’s leading point-scorers, also picks up the captain’s armband in place of the absent Will Crane.
Ben Foley moves to the wing while, on the other side, Deago Bailey returns from England U20 duty.
Undergraduate Tommy Mathews, an emergency starter in place of Foley – injured in the warm-up at Coventry last week – retains his place at fly-half after a good display, while the excellent Toby Venner is at 9. Venner’s two scores last week, both worthy of any Try of the Week award, brought his tally to four in four games since returning from injury in November.
The big news is in the forwards, where we can announce the Hartpury debut of recent England Number 8, Nathan Hughes, who has joined us on loan from Bristol Bears and has trained with us this week. He combines with Mitch Eadie and Oli Robinson in a back row to grace any Championship fixture.
Returning at lock after a 3-game absence is Cameron Jordan, a stand-out performer earlier in the season, the strength in depth in this position reflected in the fact that Dale Lemon has to settle for a place among the replacements, despite good recent performances.
Luke Stratford is chosen to replace Crane at hooker, while the very promising Ethan Hunt continues his development as the back-up.
Another returner, slightly earlier than expected, is loose-head Totti Benz-Salomon, who had an exceptional first start in the win over Nottingham three weeks ago. London Scottish will be forgiven for any confusion, as his twin, Jonny, made his first Hartpury start in the reverse fixture. Shaun Knight completes the starting front row.
There is a potential club debut for Kieran Verden, a young tight-head, from the bench, while Ciaran Knight – another to have a good game at Coventry – covers the loose.
In a 5/3 split, former Bear Jack Tovey returns for the first time since November, while Luke Eves returns to his retirement!
The match kicks off at 7.45pm. Entry for Hartpury staff and students is absolutely FREE OF CHARGE (bring your ID) and other supporters can beat the queues by purchasing advanced tickets HERE. We offer a clubhouse, a pitch-side bar, coffee/cake/pizza and a fabulous BBQ. Formal pre-match catering is sold out.