Jono Benz-Salomon (pictured) is in line for his first Championship start at London Scottish tomorrow, after a number of impressive performances off the bench since the start of the season. The highly-rated tight-head has made a smooth transition into tier two rugby, after being a consistent performer in BUCS Super Rugby, and has quickly shaken off a year of COVID-enforced absence from the game.
Although there were no fresh injury concerns from the game with Coventry, two weeks ago, the non-availability of the Bristol Bear’s players, plus the recall by Gloucester of Ciaran Knight, has caused Hartpury to re-shuffle in a number of positions ahead of the trip.
In all, Hartpury make five changes to the starting fifteen – four of them in the pack – against an Exiles team looking for their first win of 2021-22.
George Simpson’s return from injury – apart from a few minutes against Coventry – is fully confirmed by his first start of the season at full-back. Ben Foley moves from 15 to wing to replace the absent Deago Bailey. This creates a ‘double fraternity’ in Hartpury’s three-quarters – Foley’s brother Charlie is at inside centre, while Robbie and Sam Smith will also play alongside each other.
The half-backs are unchanged, as club co-captain, JB Bruzulier, needs another week for his groin strain.
Promising Gloucester forward, Jack Stanley, provides bench cover at tight-head, while Dale Lemon is a ready-made replacement for Alex Groves in the starting engine room. The back row of Josh Gray, Harry Short and Nahum Merigan – an impressive debutant against Coventry – looks like an interesting and physical combination.
The bench features three new faces for the season. Lock-forward James Scott is in line for his first Hartpury game since 2019, whilst there will be opportunities for Josh Fenner, a ‘back five’ forward most recently with Wasps, and Cameron Anderson, a Scotland U20 back who also comes to us from Wasps and who has been training with us for a little while now.
Finally, there is also a very welcome first appearance since his signing for Hartpury, for Jack Tovey (right) who, like Simpson, has been side-lined, so far, with injury. The former Bears and Trailfinders centre was a summertime acquisition for the Red & Blacks and will provide even more competition for places in the three-quarters when fully up and running.
In the meantime it was announced yesterday that Tommy Mathews has signed for Wasps on a short-term contract, meaning that he will be unavailable to us for the foreseeable future. Hartpury are very happy to let Tommy have this opportunity with a Premiership club, although he currently remains enrolled as a Hartpury student.
Saturday’s fixture at the Richmond Athletic Ground kicks off at 3pm. All support very welcome.