With the new season about to kick off, we caught up with the recently announced co-captains – hooker Will Crane (who also held the job last year) and in-coming scrum half, JB Bruzulier.
After an ultimately disappointing end to the short season of 2020-21, we asked Will what success looked like for the side this time out.
“Adding continuity and consistency is going to be very important for us,” he said.
“Last year we were we were very ‘hot and cold’, even within games. There were matches where we’d go out and perform for almost the full eighty minutes and others in which we’d die off after the first twenty. We want to reach a standard that we are happy with all game, week in, week out.”
“That’s the challenge that the coaches have laid down to us, to get better game-on-game. If we can do that over the 20-25 games, or whatever it turns out to be, then that will be success for us.”
Will has been here since he signed from Moseley in advance of the 2017-18 and, having completed a three-year Sports Business Management degree in the interim, is one of the longest-serving squad members.
In contrast, JB has ended a full-time professional career to come to Hartpury, with all that entails. What have been his early impressions of the club?
“I love it. I’m happy.”
“The reason why I say that is because the commitment that all the boys show here is unbelievable.”
“The majority of the squad have full-time jobs outside of rugby, so to commit in the way that they do (players are often required to arrive for training at 6am) to a cause like Hartpury, really shows the character that we have here.”
“I’ve been fully professional up until now but to come into this environment and see the energy that’s on display has been amazing,” he said. “It makes you want to be here and I just think it’s outstanding.”
“Obviously we haven’t started the season yet, but I was talking to the boys before a pre-season game and I could tell that we could all feel the same good vibe here, and that we are all on the same page.”
“Being part-time, we only get a few hours a week to prepare for every game, so all of the time that we can spend together really counts.”
It’s a situation that all professional players face eventually, but how does JB feel about giving up his fully-pro status?
“It’s been tough. I’ve having to adapt to something more like a normal life. I knew that it would be a challenge, which is why I decided to make that move earlier in my career rather than later, because I want my life to be solid and stable when the time comes that I finally do have to stop playing.”
“The hugely positive part is that, as I said, I’ve really loved every minute of my time involved with rugby here and I want to say a massive thanks to Hartpury and St Peter’s School (in Gloucester, where JB now works) for giving me this opportunity.”
JB is clearly a talented scrum-half, well-used to the challenges of professional sport. What else can we expect him to bring this season?
“Experience, obviously. But not just on the field,” he said.
“Like a lot of professional rugby players, I’ve travelled a route that’s been difficult at times, but I think I know what it takes to get ahead and push on.”
“I think I bring energy. I’m a positive person and I want to help these younger guys as much as I can.”
“I love the coaching aspect. I love kids – I’ve got a couple of little girls myself – and it’s great to see development. I got a lot of really good input when I was young, and it’s great to be in a position to give something back, both at St Peter’s and in a slightly different way here at Hartpury.”
Will was the captain of the Hartpury University BUCS Super Rugby Squad before taking on the role with the senior side last year. Does he feel that that he’s accustomed to the job now?
“I’m always learning,” he said.
“We tend to have a changed squad each year, so you’re always having to adapt to work with different players while trying to stay on top of your own performance and personal standards.”
“As a skipper, you’ve always got to have that slightly bigger picture.”
“My experience at Hartpury, having captained the university side in BUCS Super Rugby and now moving up to do the job at this level, is particularly useful when you look at the younger guys that we’re bringing through.
“A good example of the that is the Salomon brothers (Jonathan and Totti, both prop forwards) who’ve been able to move fairly seamlessly through the levels in university rugby and are now training and playing with our Championship squad.”
Before closing, we had to ask about this week’s challenge at Championship favourites, Ealing Trailfinders? How have they prepared for such a demanding game first-up on the fixture list?
Will said, “We’re coming off a really good pre-season where we’ve more or less been focused on ourselves.”
“We know the obstacle that we face down there – we’ve had a couple of big defeats in the past two seasons – but we’ve been really pleased with the progress that we’ve made over the past few weeks.
“The challenge is now to replicate that on a Championship match day.“
“When we first heard that we were at Ealing away first game, you could see a few boys thinking ‘here we go – difficult start’,” said JB, “but I’ve really seen a change in the mindset over the past three or four weeks.”
“So now the boys are thinking ‘do you know what – if we perform like we did against Bristol last week or in the first 40 against the Ospreys, then we’ve got a chance.”
“We’re going there to do something. We’ve prepared hard and we’ve prepared well and we’re going there to give it a go.”