RUGBY: Ivybridge, Services and Saltash looking forward to final pre-season run-outs

IVYBRIDGE, Devonport Services and Saltash will all complete their pre-season preparations this weekend with first and second team matches.

Services will take two sides across the Tamar on Friday night to play two games against Saltash (6.30pm), while Ivybridge will host Cornwall/Devon League outfit Topsham on Friday evening at Cross-in-Hand (7.30pm) before visiting National Two South side Taunton on Saturday.

It’s the last chance for all three clubs to look at players and finalise a team for the opening league games next weekend.

“There are still a couple of spots that are up for grabs definitely,” said Ivybridge coach Gareth Elliott. “We have only had two games so far, but after another two this weekend, we should be pretty close (to knowing the best team).”

Ivybridge are able to welcome back Jamie Tripcony and George Wilson to their second-row to face Taunton.

“They are key guys coming back and that should help in the line-out,” said Elliott.

Also back is former captain Jordan Anderton, who will start in the centre against Taunton.

“Jordan is getting back into things again now,” said Elliott. “He’s a great player so it’s good to have him back.”

Ivybridge know both matches this weekend will be tough.

“Taunton will be a good test and the main thing is that the lads just concentrate on their performance,” said Elliott. “Hopefully, we can give them a run for their money. But the idea is that by testing ourselves against tougher opposition hopefully that helps us improve.

“The main goal is just to be ready for Exmouth. We have two sides going to Exmouth on the first weekend of the season and we will be hoping for two wins there.”

He added: “I think Topsham beat Exmouth’s twos so that it is going to be another tough game. By the looks of things they have had a load of signings and they have a lot of good players.”

Services and Saltash regularly play each other in pre-season.

“It is always quite an intense game,” said Services coach Mike Lewis. “Neither team has ever won it by a lot and I think since I have been at Services, Saltash are 2-1 up on wins.

“This time we’ve got two teams and they’ve got two teams – I think we both have about 40 players – so we are going to have two games.”

On how Services have selected their teams, Lewis said: “There is a spine of players that we think are going to be in or around the first team but there’s others that we are still unsure of, so we will mix them in and see. Both teams we have got out our reasonably strong. The guys playing have been around most of pre-season so they should know what they are doing. Even if we called them first and seconds there is not much difference.”

He added: “It will be good to see if some players can handle the pressure of playing a running side like Saltash. There are some guys we need to see where they are.

“It might be the last pre-season game but we still have 26 league games to go.

“We know the players that are very good individually and those that are very good team players, but it is about how we marry those up. You need a great team performance but at the same time an individual could be a match winner.”

Services beat Brixham in their other pre-season match, while Saltash overcame Plymstock Albion Oaks away last weekend.

Western Counties West side Saltash know higher league Services will offer a tougher test, but they do always enjoy the annual pre-season run-out against their rivals from across the Tamar.

“We are looking forward to that game,” said Saltash player-coach Lewis Wells. “But we are not too worried about winning or losing these pre-season games, it is just about building our new structures that myself and Steve (Down) as coaches are putting in place.”

Cornwall player Wells has taken on the role of forwards coach this summer with Steve Down becoming their new head coach.

Wells admits it has not been easy to just go from a player to one of the coaching team.

“It is difficult,” he said. “I think I’m quite lucky to get the respect of some of the lads because I’ve been around a bit. As one of the senior players I am getting a lot of help from the other senior players in the squad that are buying into it and it seems to be working really well.”

Elsewhere, Devon One sides Tamar Saracens and Old Techs, who don’t start their league seasons until September 14, have trips to Cornwall planned this weekend.

Techs are visiting Perranporth, while Sarries’ first team are due to head to Hayle. Sarries second will make the shorter trip to Plympton Victoria, who will be playing their first game at their new home Underwood Recreation Ground, next to St Mary’s Church.

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