Rugby

Lewis confident Friend can successfully make the jump up to South West One

DEVONPORT Services coach Mike Lewis is looking forward to seeing Mark Friend trying to make his mark in South West One.

Friend has signed for newly-promoted Services after spending years at Tavistock, where he came through their colts side.

A number of clubs have been interested in Friend before, but he always stayed loyal to Tavistock.

However, he has now finally decided to try and see if he can make it at a higher level by joining Lewis at Services.

Lewis worked with Friend at Tavistock a few years ago when they were in Western Counties West and he believes the 25-year-old can make the jump to level six.

“I’m 100 per cent sure he can do it,” said Lewis.

“He showed what he could do when Tavistock played against our second team last season in the cup. We had a strong team out, with a number of boys who had been playing first team rugby, but he still managed to run around nearly everyone and do the stuff he has been doing in the Devon/Cornwall League.

“He has got natural ability and he will be an exciting addition to our squad.

“I’m very confident he is going to do well. He has been looking good in training, but he has got a lot of competition to get into the team, so he is going to have to work hard. We have got at least six players who will feel they are a starting six, seven or eight.”

Lewis praised Tavistock for understanding Friend’s desire to try and test himself at a higher level. Friend’s former Tavistock colts team-mates Dom O’Connor, Dan Luffman and Kier Murphy successfully moved up the leagues a number of years ago.

“Tavistock have been very professional about it,” said Lewis. “They don’t want to stop a player trying to better themselves.

“It will have been a big decision for him to leave has he has been a Tavistock for years.”

In the last couple of seasons Friend has been Tavistock’s Mr Versatile. He has played in nearly every position from full-back, centre, fly-half to his favourite position in the back-row.

“He is very versatile and playing different positions has given him a whole new skill set, which he probably wouldn’t have got by just playing one position the whole time,” said Lewis.

“Playing in the centre has enhanced his handling skills and decision making and when he’s playing in that back-row he has the freedom to run and carry – the things he does really well.”

Friend and Services’ other summer signings could get their first run-out at the Rectory next Friday when Devonport host an annual 10s fixture.

Plymstock Albion Oaks are taking part it in and Services are hoping to find at least one other club. Services’ first 15-a-side pre-season match will be against Kingsbridge on Friday, August 10.

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