Hartpury, despite continued injury absences in or two positions, are able to name a strong-looking squad for the test posed by league leaders and many people’s Championship favourites, Ealing Trailfinders, at the Alpas Arena on Saturday.
Not surprisingly, the management have stuck with many of the group that performed so well at Bedford Blues’ Goldington Road home last weekend, running out as 34-10 victors at a venue that had held only disappointment in previous seasons.
Thirteen of the previous starters have retained their places. This includes the entire back division and six of eight forwards.
In terms of changes, it is no great surprise to see the return of Mitch Eadie in the back row, the player having been unavailable last week. The other alteration is in the loose-head spot, where Conor Maguire’s return from injury is welcomed.
Hartpury’s performance at Bedford earned no less than five “Championship Club Podcast Team of the Week” selections, one of which was for back row forward, Josh Gray (pictured). Having made his Premiership debut for parent club Gloucester Rugby in the somewhat makeshift end to the 2019-20 season – shortly following that up with an outstanding individual score against that year’s champions, Exeter Chiefs – he has been on dual registration to Hartpury since the start of the 2020-21 campaign. He is an England U20 international and played in last year’s Six Nations Grand Slam success.
In a competitive area in terms of squad strength, he has worked hard to earn a place in the starting line-up and retains that this weekend, albeit moving from Number 8 to blind-side, and is fully deserving of the opportunity based on recent efforts.
Honourable mentions also go to undergraduate hooker Ethan Hunt – a scorer against Ealing in Week 1 of the season – also making back-to-back starts and confirming his promise week in and week out, plus lock Dale Lemon who made one of his best performances in Red & Black at Bedford. George Simpson, at full-back, was another to build on recent strong efforts and stays to face his old club.
Onto the bench come returning back-rower Oli Robinson – another former Trailfinder and going well before injury against London Scottish – as well as Bristol Bears winger Charlie, Powell, who was unavailable last week after playing the full 80 against Coventry.
Deago Bailey (wing) and Matty Jones (scrum half) are to be congratulated for their selections into the England U20 match day squad against Scotland, meaning their continued unavailability for Hartpury. Also starting for the England U20s is former Hartpury student Mikey Summerfield, now in the London Irish Academy.
Newly-signed Irish prop, Cronan Gleeson, is in line for a debut as the replacement tight-head, while the remainder of the bench offer strength and impact in key positions. The match kicks off at 2.30pm, Saturday, and is followed by Scotland v England, on the big screens, from the Six Nations.