Hartpury University RFC are very pleased to announce that Luke Stratford and Will Crane have been appointed as co-captains for the forth-coming Greene King IPA Championship season, which starts with a home fixture against Richmond Rugby this Saturday.
Both players are hookers by trade and both came through student rugby with Hartpury University, picking up BUCS Super Rugby winners medals along the way.
Stratford played in the 2017 double-winning squad, alongside the likes of Seb Negri and Harry Randall, and also scored the last-gasp try that snatched the trophy away from Cardiff Met University the following year.
Crane also featured in that 2018 final, in his first season at Hartpury, but was robbed of further personal glory in 2019 when, after being named as university skipper for the season, injury kept him out for most of the year, meaning that Will Biggs (yet another hooker) got to lift the trophy at Twickenham.
Stratford first arrived as a ‘lively’ 19-year old from Jersey in 2014.
“This is very big, for me”, he said. “Fouro (Chris Fortey) was the captain back then and we were just starting out in Nat 1. Even coming back to the club and being able to play here again is big (Stratford spent last season with Clifton), but being named as co-captain is massive.”
Crane joined from Birmingham Moseley in 2017, just in time for our first tilt at Championship rugby. He made his Premiership debut, on loan with Gloucester Rugby, at the tail end of the interrupted ’19-20 season.
“When I got here Strats was the first team hooker for BUCS Super Rugby, so I spent a lot of time chasing his jersey. We spent a much of our university careers in the same squad and also with the RFC, so to be co-captain with him now is quite special.”
“As far as the job is concerned, I think a lot of it is about driving standards,” said Crane. “I won’t be asking any player to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself. That includes all the extras and little bits and pieces, working hard off the pitch – it’s important that we do that.”
“Craney and I have been here a while now, so we know the players and we know the coaches,” said Stratford. “I think that we’re both players who are comfortable taking a leadership position and are able to communicate well. I think that we complement each other well and the fact that we are working together should be helpful in dealing with any pressure.”
The pair have known about the appointment for some time (in fact Crane was training with Gloucester when it was announced to the squad) so they have had a little time to develop into the role.
“There was a lot a pride at the time,” said Crane. “Hartpury has given me a lot over the past few years so it really felt like an honour when it came. At the same time, there’s definitely a sense of responsibility – we both want to be able to lead from the front this year.”
So what are the expectations for the season?
“We’ve got quite a young squad,” said Stratford. “In fact we’re both up there among the old heads now! I’m feeling really confident. We’ve got a good group of players and, talking to the coaches, we can see that they are pretty happy too – probably the strongest squad that they’ve had to work with in their time here also.”
“We want to express ourselves and play,” he said. “We don’t want to be an ‘old-school’ team that just goes to grind out the win. We want to enjoy our rugby and the opportunity to play without any threat of relegation will probably help that a little bit.”
“We definitely want to be competitive,” said Crane. “This will be our fourth season in the Championship and, in the past, we’ve probably been a team that most clubs would have targeted as a win. This year we want to playing nearer the top end of the table than the bottom. Hopefully, we will also be playing in better weather and on drier tracks, which should suit us even more. This is the best group we’ve had in my time here and there’s a lot of confidence around the camp.”
“We know what we can offer and we know how we can play,” said Stratford, “as long as we stick to it and crack on, we’ll be fine.”
Predictions for a league finish?
“Top-half” was the answer from both lads. Hopefully they will be right, in which case we should have plenty to look forward to between this weekend and the end of May.