Cambridge Rugby Head Coach Richie Williams has named his side to face Doncaster Knights in the opening round of the Premiership Cup on Friday night.
Making the journey north to Castle Park, the clash not only kick starts Cambridge’s competitive season but will also serve as the first time the two sides meet following Cambridge’s promotion into the Championship.
Of his selection, Williams said;
“The selected 23 includes five new signings, three of whom will start. Winger Eli Caven will look to build on his excellent pre-season where he has scored three tries in two appearances and partners Joe Green and the dependable Joe Tarrant in the back three. Sam Hanks, formerly of Ampthill, partners Tom Hoppe in midfield, with Steff James and Kieran Duffin resuming their half back pairing.”
Up-front, Ben Brownlie starts at hooker with Seb Brownhill and Billy Walker at props. Captain George Bretag Norris and Gareth Baxter run out in the second row and ex-Doncaster player Jared Cardew will look forward to going head to head with his previous club at number 8. The final pieces to the puzzle are back row selects Ben Adams and Noah Sloot.
Front row cover is provided by Morgan Veness, Matty Collins and Jake Elwood, with the other substitutes being Archie Strath, Toby Dabell, Matt Hema, Matty Williams and Rian Hamilton.
Williams also made note of his side’s performances leading up to this week and the learnings they will take into their opening match;
“We have had a solid pre-season where one of our principle aims was to integrate and expose all of our players to competitive rugby.
“Both of our warm up fixtures gave us the type of opposition that we needed to play against, with both Carmarthen Quins and Chinnor playing slightly different styles.
“Despite losing against Chinnor, the game allowed us the opportunity of selecting six of the 1923 players, all of which were under the age of 21. I hope that showcases the long term vision that we have of creating a genuine playing pathway throughout the club.”
Williams also looked ahead to opponents, Doncaster Knights and the threats they pose;
“Doncaster are a well-established Championship team who are one of the full time outfits. They finished 6th last season and will be looking to finish in the top three this season. They have recruited heavily over the summer with only a third of their squad remaining from last year. They have made some big name signings including back row forward Seb Nagel Taylor and hooker Tom Doughty from Bath.
“On the eve of our first foray into the unknown of the Premiership Cup, the emotions are a mix of nerves and excitement.
“It is important to highlight the rapid progress that this group of players have made since the 2018/19 season where we just managed to fight off relegation to National 2. At that point, few would have dared to dream that in September 2023, we would be visiting the likes of Premiership big hitters Northampton Saints, to play in a competitive fixture.
“I have been delighted to play a small part in this journey but must stress that we can’t afford to sit still and be satisfied with where we are currently at. Our mindset has to quickly change, and we look forward to embracing the unique challenges of what the Premiership Cup will present.”
Kick off at Castle Park, Doncaster will take place at 7:30pm on Friday 8th September. Cambridge then look ahead to round two where they travel to Premiership side Northampton Saints in a local clash on Saturday 16th September.
You can witness the side at home for the first time this season in round three when they welcome Cornish Pirates to Ellgia Fields on Saturday 23rd September. Tickets are on sale now.
Cambridge Rugby line-up:
15 – Joe Tarrant
14 – Eli Caven
13 – Tom Hoppe
12 – Sam Hanks
11 – Joe Green
10 – Steff James
9 – Kieran Duffin
1 – Seb Brownhill
2 – Ben Brownlie
3 – Billy Walker
4 – George Bretag Norris (c)
5 – Gareth Baxter
6 – Noah Sloot
7 – Ben Adams
8 – Jared Cardew
16 – Morgan Veness
17 – Jake Elwood
18 – Matty Collins
19 – Archie Strath
20 – Toby Dabell
21 – Matt Hema
22 – Matty Williams
23 – Rian Hamilton