Hartpury will be looking for a big step up in performance when they travel to the well-appointed Parc Y Scarlets for the second of two successive British & Irish Cup fixtures in Saturday.
Last weekend witnessed a disappointing B&I opener, as a team showing 13 changes in the starting fifteen, perhaps understandably, found it difficult to gel against an almost full-strength Cornish Pirates. The 36-19 defeat was a major comedown after the heights of the previous week’s performance versus Doncaster Knights, but head coach Mark Cornwell saw some things in the display that he liked.
“I was disappointed with certain aspects of our game,” he said, “but not 100% surprised that a strong Pirates squad had us under pressure.
There was a lack of detail in some parts of our game, but having said that, some of the boys did well and put in fully committed performances.”
The trip to Llanelli, where Hartpury will play against the Scarlets Premiership Select, is something of a journey into the unknown. Unlike their ‘big brothers’, who are the reigning Pro14 Champions and currently between Champions Cup fixtures with Toulon and Bath, little information is available about the B&I Cup side.
“We haven’t seen any footage and we can’t get anything to look at,” said Cornwell. “We’ll just have to live with that, but we’re going into this one very much in the dark as to what they’re all about.
What it means is that we are very much focused on ourselves. We’re working hard to make sure we get the basic components of our game right and then, very quickly, on Saturday we’ll pick up things in the game. That will be a good test for the players.
We expect to see quite a few Scarlets squad members, plus a few from local clubs. They are going to be strong and, of course, they are at home. It is a lovely stadium and Saturday should be a good occasion for the boys.
It’s unusual, because you normally get the chance to analyse the opposition beforehand in the Championship – it’s a bit like going back in time 10 years. Hopefully they will know just as little about us!”
What we do know about the Scarlets Select is that they also got off to a losing start in this competition, going down 24-18 to Ulster A last Saturday having earlier led in the match.
There is no doubt that the major focus of management and coaches this year is to safely navigate the club through its first Championship season and Cornwell is honest about having at least one eye on the trip to London Scottish the following week.
“Last week was a good opportunity to have a look at one or two in the squad and give some of the more senior players a needed rest,” he said. “This week is about working those players back in again so that we are ready for London Scottish.
That is a hugely important game for us – they probably haven’t had the start they would have wanted, while we want to go down there and put another good performance together after the win against Doncaster.”
There are no new injury concerns of a serious nature, although one or two players are likely to be given another week to get over niggles. Only lock Alex Craig and centre Steve Leonard remain as long-term absentees, both having recently undergone surgery for knee and shoulder injuries respectively.