Hartpury have named a heavily re-shuffled side for tomorrow’s visit to Bedford Blues, as they respond to injury and unavailability.
The good news is that experienced players Luke Eves (centre) and Mat Gilbert (back row) have recovered sufficiently to be named, having been considered doubtful earlier in the week.
The front row of Murphy, Tanner and Harden has a settled look, although there is a surprise in the second row, where former Hartpury student and RFC player, Harry Casson, lines up alongside skipper Simon Linsell. Casson – who last played for Hartpury in National League 2 several seasons ago – has arrived on an emergency loan move from Ealing Trailfinders.
With Rob Fuller, Joe Quinn, Alex Craig and last week’s MOTM Ehize Ehizode all unavailable to Hartpury through injury or other reasons, the arrival of Casson provides a welcome and much-needed resource in this department.
James Stephenson and Tom Pashley join Gilbert to form the breakaway unit.
Luke Cozens renews his partnership with Richard Bolt at fly-half, with Sam Leeming stepping out to centre, alongside Eves. Ed Shelford is in for the injured Jake Henry on the wing, joining Ben Foley and Mike Wilcox in the back three.
The bench has a youthful look. Robbie Smith – son of former Gloucester and Scotland flanker, Ian – provides cover for the outside backs and is in line for his Championship debut following his involvement in the big BUCS Super Rugby win, at Durham, on Wednesday. Smith is a first year undergraduate who has returned to Hartpury this season, having previously figured in AASE rugby.
Another student from Wednesday’s win, back row forward Harry Wilson, also steps up to the Championship for the first time. Wilson, a former Gloucester Academy player, was involved in the successful BUCS-winning teams of 2017 and 2018.
Two further undergraduates, Alex Gibson and Angus Southon, are others to double-up from the Durham match, while recent graduates Luke Stratford and Harry Cochrane complete the line-up.
Saturday’s game at Goldington Road kicks off at 3pm and is the last Championship fixture before Christmas, as the new Championship Cup takes over for the next several weeks.