RUGBY: Region’s clubs step up their pre-season preparations

RUGBY clubs in the region will be continuing their build-up to the new league campaign with a host of pre-season friendlies this weekend.

Plymouth Argaum, Old Techs and Saltash will be among those playing their first warm-up games of any type on Saturday.

Last season’s Counties Three Devon West champions Argaum will travel to last term’s Counties Two Devon winners Tavistock, while Old Techs make the trip down to Cornwall to play higher league Newquay Hornets and Saltash will visit OPMs.

Argaum have boosted their squad with a host of new signings, including Luc Phillips and Lee Rowley from Camborne School of Mines, Owen Parkin, Scott Kidd, Charlie Burch, Joe Bamber, Kieron Burring, Ethan Howe, Bailey Howe, Charles vom Hagen, John Jackson, Ryan Tunnicliffe and Max Earle, while Jack Skjolde has returned after getting injured at the start of last season.

However, Argaum have got loads of people away this weekend and so will be taking an unfamiliar looking side to Tavistock.

“We are not quite sure what Tavistock are going to bring, but we have got a bit of a scratch side,” said Argaum head coach Dean Avery.

“We have a completely different back line. Tom Shepherd, who played nine last year, is on holiday, as is our normal 10 Billy Stockwell, Owen Gocher isn’t available and we’ve lost Jack Morris so that’s our 9,10 and our centre partnership not around.”

New signings Rowley and Phillips are among those set to get a run-out in the backs.

“I’m not quite sure how it is going to go but that’s what these pre-season games are for,” said Avery.

“Hopefully, we can play a bit of running rugby and just enjoy the day.

“I think we are going into the game very similar to how Tavistock were against Crediton last week. We have almost only got a bare 15. Everyone seems to be on holiday. We have over 20 people away.

“But we are fortunate that we have got over 50 players on our books so we have got a team, but whether it is going to be good enough to compete against Tavvy we’ll have to see.

“But I’m looking forward to seeing the new guys step in. It might be a learning curve for a lot of them, but I’m looking forward to it. It is about just getting the game on.”

Tavistock got their pre-season underway last weekend with a trip to higher league Crediton, where they lost 56-26, but they took plenty of positives from the performance with a makeshift team.

They are expected to have more players available for Saturday’s game against Argaum.

Old Techs are also looking forward to blowing off the cobwebs this weekend with a trip to Newquay. They will then play Bodmin the following week.

“It’s a change of scenery playing different teams,” said Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith. “We don’t know anything about them and they won’t know anything about us.

“It was quite hard to find teams to play around Plymouth, but it’s good to have these fixtures. Last year we had a couple of teams pull out and we only had one friendly against Liskeard-Looe and that was the day after Mike Putt’s funeral.

“We are going to go down to Newquay on the train and make a day of it and have a bit of a social.

“We have got 23 players available and that’s with over 10 missing, so that’s really positive.

“We have been getting good numbers at training each week and I think the players are just looking forward to playing again.”

OPMs did play a 10s fixture against Tamar Saracens and Plymstock Albion Oaks at the end of  July, but Saturday’s game against Saltash at King George V Playing Fields will be their first full run-out.

With both OPMs and Saltash expected to have more than 30 players each, it is planned that the clubs will play three 40-minute games.

The Old Boys do have a number of former colts coming into their squad this season, including Ellis Foale, Eli Hingston and Tim Bromeo, while they have also brought in a few more experienced additions, including Chris Carpenter from Saltash, former player Matt Price and ex-Bournemouth hooker George Harding.

Plymstock Albion Oaks have played 10s and also had a club run-out against Plympton Victoria a couple of weeks ago, but they are set to get their pre-season underway properly this weekend with a trip to Brixham.

They are also now set to play Devonport Services II on Thursday night at the Rectory.

Services were looking for a second team game after they were left without one this weekend.

Devonport II were initially due to play Tamar Saracens tonight, but that game got cancelled. They then lined a game up against Ivybridge II, who had been let down by Paignton, but that has also been called off now.

“We have hopefully picked up Oaks for next Thursday at our place. It will be our seconds against their firsts,” said Services head coach Ben Russell.

“We were going to do a head-to-head squad game next Thursday but this Oaks game will probably be better.”

Services will continue their preparations this weekend with a home game against Wadebridge.

It was planned to be a first team game for Services, but with no second team match this weekend, Russell has to change his plans a bit.

“I think we have to give boys who haven’t had any game-time some and the boys on the fringes who might have been playing a bit on Friday and on the bench on Saturday,” he said.

Services have got plenty of depth in certain positions, which will make selection hard for Russell.

“The boys know that I want it to be a fight,” he said. “I want it to be competitive. If you are not happy to be competitive and not happy playing twos rugby if someone is playing better than you, then you are not the right person for this club.”

Services did impress against Plymouth Albion, narrowly losing 26-21 to a late try.

But Russell does not want his team reading too much into that result.

“It was like a massive cup game for us as they are the big dogs in the city,” he said. “They respected us with the team they put out, but if you actually look at the whole game – yeah we did really well and people said we could have won it – but we could have also lost by three or four tries. The boys understand that and know it. They have seen the stats.

“But we got lots out of it and so did they. It was a good run-out.

“Fair play to the lads that played for us, they took it to them and didn’t give up or take a backwards step.”

Ivybridge were due to continue their pre-season preparations with a first team match against Crediton at Cross-in-Hand this weekend, but that fixture has now been cancelled.

The Bridgers’ only game to date was a 29-12 victory over Truro.


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