Hartpury largely settled ahead of Ealing visit

With the Championship season having reached the half-way point, all teams will mirror their opening day fixtures this weekend which, for Hartpury, means a visit from league leaders Ealing Trailfinders, although conditions are likely to be very different from the sun and high temperatures that we experienced on our visit to West London back in September.

The Hartpury ‘half-term’ report card after ten games makes better reading than in previous years, with five wins in the bank so far, including a first-ever victory against the Cornish Pirates, a club that the Red & Blacks have struggled to live with in the Championship so far (and who we meet again on Boxing Day in our, ‘local derby’).

A number of individuals have had the opportunity to make a good impression this season and one man who has been quietly effective in his work has been fly-half James Williams.  Somewhat surprisingly, Williams has yet to cross the whitewash this season, but a high level of consistency with the boot has seen him reach the half-way point as the second-highest points scorer in Championship rugby, just two points behind Bedford’s Will Maisey.

He is back in the Number 10 shirt against Ealing and will again be paired with Toby Venner at scrum half.  Venner’s re-emergence from injury has been perfectly timed to compensate for the absence of co-captain JB Bruzulier and it was his tries that set Hartpury on their way to victory in their two most recent matches, against Ampthill and Richmond.

The pack is reasonably settled, although lock forward Cam Jordan is likely to miss out as Gloucester prefer to keep him within their ‘bubble’.  Shaun Knight is named as the starting tight-head after two good appearances from the bench on his return from injury, while Mitch Eadie is available to resume his duties at Number 8, having been retained by Bristol last week.

The outside back selection remains consistent, as it has done all season, the only change being the re-appearance of Deago Bailey on the wing.

Back-up scrum-half Matty Jones is in camp with the England U20 squad, meaning that Oscar Lennon will double from Wednesday’s BUCS Super Rugby win over Bath, as will Joe Howard as a back row replacement.

Tomorrow’s game kicks off at 2.30pm.

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