Rugby

Ivybridge hoping to see more youngsters challenging for the first team

IVYBRIDGE’S head coach Gareth Elliott is hoping the club’s promising production line of talent will once again bear fruit this coming season.

The Bridgers have made their name by relying on their successful junior set up to feed their senior side. Every year the Cross-in-Hand club have players that come through and make their mark in the first team after moving up from the colts.

Last season, full-back Dan Lilley and front-row forward Harvey Dunn successfully made the jump, while the previous year it was Adam Northcott and Will Lamont who became key first team regulars.

A large majority of Ivybridge’s South West Premier squad have all come through the club’s colts and Elliott is confident there will be more to follow.

“This year’s group look a decent crop,” said Elliott. “I always like to get in touch with them nice and early, but the problem is a lot of them are going to university, which is great for them but is tough for us.

“Some are keen to do pre-season and then they will be off to uni, but there are at least four, maybe five guys, who are really committed to getting involved, which is a good boost for us.

“Last year was Dan Lilley’s first season, while Adam Northcott is still young but now has a couple of seasons of senior rugby.

“We also have Matt Burns, who would have played last season but missed it through a knee injury. Having him coming back from injury is like having a new player, even though he’s one year out of colts.”

Elliott added: “We are always massively keen on any new players joining and experiencing Ivybridge rugby, but we are also blessed with good quality colts coming through.”

He added: “We seem to have retained most of the players that were playing last season so we are in a good place.

“We also have a few guys that are returning players who are eager to get involved in pre-season.

“There’s a lot of interest around the club and I am confident of the numbers we will have when we do start training again.

“We have not started training properly yet. We have been sending the guys fitness programmes that they have been doing. They have been meeting up in small groups and training together doing those running sessions. That’s been quite good. They have done that really well and I think the boys have enjoyed that.

“But everyone is just mad keen to get back into it. I think they are just waiting to hear the next step. Hopefully, we will get some clarity from the governing body about what can be done next.”

When the South West Premier does start, Ivybridge are set to play all their Devon derby games in the opening 12 games after the RFU announced plans to regionalise the first half of the season. It means the Bridgers’ longest trip in the opening half of the campaign will probably be Camborne, with visits to Launceston, Okehampton, Brixham, Exmouth and Exeter University also on the cards.

“We are so lucky to have such a local league playing at the level we are at,” said Elliott.

“I think the lads will love it playing all those local games back-to-back.”

Ivybridge have strengthened their coaching team for 2020-21 with former player Steve Atkinson becoming skills coach and assistant backs coach.

“Charlie Briant is still the back’s coach but Steve’s going to help out with the backs and going to do skills,” said Elliott. “It’s really good he’s come on board.”

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