There will be at least two ‘full’ debuts on Saturday, when Hartpury welcome Nottingham Rugby to the Alpas Arena, with a further three would-be debutants and a potential ‘centurion’ on the bench, as the Red & Blacks shuffle the pack after a disappointing display at Ealing.
Number 8 Morgan Monks and loose-head Lewis Holsey, both on dual-registration from Worcester Warriors, were second-half replacements at the Trailfinders and both step up to the starting fifteen for this fixture.
Among the replacements, for the first time, are another prop forward, George Porter, a former Warrior, who has been signed on a short-term contract from National 1 neighbours Cinderford, and scrum-half Matty Jones from the Gloucester Academy. Jones is highly-rated and has been involved with the England Under-18 set-up in the past.
Mitch Walsh, stepping up from student rugby – he would have skippered the BUCS Super Rugby side this season, had they actually played – is another in line for a Championship debut, as the back-up tight-head.
Meanwhile, Saturday could see the continuation of a story that started back in January 2016, when Luke Eves (featured on the team graphic) made his Hartpury debut with a two-try performance, away at Fylde, in National League 1. Saturday could see him make his 100th appearance for the club, having become a ‘Mr Reliable’ figure in the Hartpury centres, whilst combining his role as a player with being a full-time coach within the College Under-18 Academy.
Eves, as befits a player who had previously been a regular Premiership starter for both Bristol and the Newcastle Falcons, made an impact right from the start of his Hartpury career and was a key (and almost ever-present) member of the team that uniquely won all 30 games in topping National 1 in 2016-17. He was the second-top try-scorer that season, behind the prolific Jonas Mikalcius.
His experience was also a valuable asset during the early Championship seasons and, even if starting opportunities have recently become a little more limited, remains an important member of the squad. We will have to see how the game unfolds on Saturday, but a well-deserved 100th cap is a milestone that relatively few Hartpury players have achieved.
Elsewhere, George Simpson reverts to the 15 jersey, allowing Jack Johnson to make his first start since a head-knock in the opening fixture.
Club co-Captain Will Crane returns as the starting hooker, with Scott Russell slotting in alongside Dale Lemon in the second row. Will Safe steps back in for the injured Aled Ward and there is a welcome first hit-out of the season for Max Clementson on the open side.
Besides the potential debutants, Hartpury will have some good options on the bench, including former BUCS skipper Harry Wilson and lock forward Arthur Clark, who will be wanting to continue his good start at this level. Wil Partington offers pace and versatility across the backs.
Saturdays’ game kicks off at 4.30pm and will be available to view via livestream HERE (£10).