All roads lead to Dry Leas on Saturday as the Henley Hawks open their National 2(South) campaign with a home game against Sutton and Epsom RFC, kick off is 3pm.
The Hawks will be looking to improve on their fourth position in the league last season and the squad have been preparing for a couple of months now. Pre season games against London Irish Wild Geese and Rosslyn Park, along with an internal training game have given the whole squad an opportunity to push themselves for selection and show the coaches what they are made of. The players have certainly show the commitment and attitude so far that they will need for the rest of the season.
Most of last year’s squad have returned, along with a number of promising new players who should add to the quality of the side.
The National 2 (South) League is a demanding competition with teams and players better prepared as each season goes by and so no game will be easy. That said, and with a number of new recruits in the ranks, Hawks head coach Luke Allen will want his side to start the season positively and put a marker down to the other teams in the league.
Head coach Luke Allen has picked a strong side for the opener with three players making their debuts for the Hawks. The pack includes a number familiar faces with new signing from Old Albanian, Charlie Hughes, starting for the first time in the front row alongside Tom Emery and Brad Cook.
Former Gloucester Academy and Cinderford scrum half Ewan Fenley makes his first start partnering Ben Bolster at half back whilst Alex Burrage (Bath University) starts in the centre alongside Xav Andre.
Second row Jake Albon captains the side with last years joint captain Sam Lunnon on a strong looking replacements bench.
15 Liam O’Neill,14 Jack Robinson, 13 Xav Andre, 12 Alex Burrage, 11 George Wood, 10 Ben Bolster, 9 Ewan Fenley
1 Brad Cook, 2 Tom Emery, 3 Charlie Hughes, 4 Jake Albon, 5 Dave Hyde, 6 Tom Hall, 7 Marcus Lowe, 8 Alex Bradley
Reps: George Primett, Elliot Deacon, Scott White, Sam Lunnon, George Griffiths
Sutton and Epsom are one of four new teams in the league this season, along with Bournemouth, Westcliff and Leicester Lions.
Sutton and Epsom were founded in 1881 and have a proud history, being one of the leading amateur clubs in the country for many years. Last season they won the London and South East Premier Division by four points with a last week victory over third placed Wimbledon by 39-23. The Londoners are coached by former Canadian international Mike Schmid who has vast experience of coaching around the leagues having previously coached Rotherham and Esher. Any side coached by him will be no pushover and the Hawks will know they are in for a stern test.
They have had a busy pre season with games against Guildford, Rosslyn Park and Havant.
There is plenty of rugby for the other Henley sides this weekend as the new season gets into full swing.
The Hawks 2nd (Bulls) XV, also play Sutton & Epsom at home, kick off 3pm.
Coach Tommy Allen has a strong side which includes a number of new players who have featured in the Hawks warm up games.
George Probyn, Andrew Stobbs (C), Henry Penrose, Hugh Evans, Angus Hinton, Harry Jackson, Charlie Duminy, Liam Goodison, Euan McPhun, Charlie Wicks,
Ryan Scott-Young, Samir Kharbouch, Murray Bellis, Loike Bazzi,Guy Rawsthorn
Reps: Rory Mason, Taine Wagstaff, Zac Clarke, Harry Ryan, Connor Segre,
The 3rd (Vikings) XV start their season with a pre season friendly away at Slough RFC 2nd XV, kick off at Tamblyn Field is 3pm.
On Sunday, the Henley Hawks Women also start their league campaign with a home game against Supermarine RFC. Kick off at Dry Leas is 2pm.
by Nick Pitson