It’s a measure of how active the club have been ahead of the 2020-21 season that the list of currently-contracted players retained is shorter than the list of either the new signings or of those departing. However, there were definite signs last season that the club are becoming increasingly competitive at Championship level and it is good to see that we have managed to hang on to a number of the key individuals who contributed to that improvement.
(Pictured above, L-R, George Simpson, Joshua Bragman, Sam Goatley, Luke Eves, Jamie Forrester)
As has become the norm at Hartpury, that group has been augmented by a number of recent graduates signing their first contracts as they come out of the BUCS Super Rugby squad.
George Simpson made a strong impression at either full-back or wing during 2019-20 whilst on loan from Ealing Trailfinders. We are very pleased to announce that he will be with us again next term, this time as a permanent acquisition.
Also staying is fly-half Joshua Bragman who very much took hold of the number 10 shirt with a string of accomplished performances and will only continue to improve.
A second season beckons for another of last year’s new boys, Sam Goatley, who grew into Championship rugby and capped it off with two tries in what turned out to be our penultimate fixture, at Nottingham.
James Forrester is also retained and the club will again be able to rely upon the dependable presence of Luke Eves (also a full-time coach at Hartpury College) in midfield.
(Pictured above, L-R, Will Safe, Max Clementson, Dan Murphy, Ashley Challenger, Rob Fuller)
Returning in the back row resources will be the ever-consistent Will Safe and, also staying for a second year, former university flanker, Max Clementson.
The front row will continue to benefit from the vast experience of former Gloucester and Quins prop, Dan Murphy (another full-time coach), while there is a welcome extension for Ashley Challenger, who made such a good job of stepping up to this level from Dings Crusaders last season.
Big Rob Fuller remains at the club as the only retained lock forward.
There are a small number of the current squad who remain in discussion regarding the plans for next season. We’ll bring you updates on those as soon as we have them.
(Picured above, L-R, Will Crane, Ton Everard, Harry Wilson, Jack Johnson, Ervin Muric, Robbie Smith)
It is always a great pleasure to be able to announce the players who have received their first Hartpury University RFC contracts, having graduated from student rugby in the summer. It has become something of a Hartpury tradition that a number of players achieve their first professional contracts in this way and the 2020-21 season will be no exception.
Will Crane is, of course, no stranger to Championship rugby having been in and around the ‘RFC’ squad since arriving as an undergraduate three years ago. His consistent performances in the 2019-20 season have seen him rewarded with the opportunity to progress his career at this level.
Lock forward Tom Everard is another to earn a contract after continuing his progression last term, during which he was frequently required to switch between BUCS Super Rugby and the Championship. BUCS skipper Harry Wilson has had a few tastes of senior rugby in the past two seasons and will be here again next year.
In the backs, Jack Johnson has always looked like a class act in BUCS Super Rugby and those performances have earned him his chance at a higher level. He will be joined in the squad by our Belgian international winger, swervin’ Ervin Muric, whose performances in student rugby – particularly in 2018-19 (he was injured for much of last season) – earned him something of a cult status.
Finally, it is worth remembering that centre Robbie Smith, who enjoyed a breakthrough season at Championship level in the last campaign, is still an undergraduate for at least another year and as such will remain as part of the squad.
Congratulations to all of the above and we look forward to seeing them all back for pre-season in the not too distant future!