“As coaches, we try to develop the players and give them the tools and tactics to win games but you can't coach blood and guts and the boys wanting to fight for each other!”
There is no 2nd XV game this Saturday ,with a free weekend in the fixture list after a good win against Colchester last week. There were a number of guys who played well in that game so we have taken those performances into consideration and made a couple of changes to the 1st XV squad this week. I expect that most of the second team will be at Hoe Lane on Saturday, with a number of other guys really knocking at the door to be involved.
The front row has one change, with Chris Joyce coming back into the squad after two good performances in the 2nd XV. Luke Ellis has a week off after two good displays in the last two weeks. The props stay the same, with Harry Morgan and Geoff Hughes both scrummaging exceptionally well on Saturday, along with the rest of the pack. Josh Hewitt keeps his place on the bench and we may have to look at giving him some game time after this week as he was limited to just 10 minutes last weekend. Louis Castaglione had a very positive display in the 2nd XV last weekend on his return from injury and he is doing extra fitness in training this week with Liam O Hara our S&C Coach to get him up to speed on that front.
The second row stays the same, with Jack Elston and James Kinsley beginning to form a very good partnership. They are both very mobile and continue to play well. We are starting to have a lot of competition in this area, which is great for us as coaches. James Keens played in the 2nd XV on Saturday and the feedback from Dave Hynard was very positive. He is not quite there on the fitness front after being out for a long time with injury, but Jimbo is honest enough to acknowledge he needs a couple more games under his belt and I am sure he will be pushing hard very soon. Matt Perks will not be back with us until mid-January but Tim Matthews returns to the club after helping his old club out for a few weeks, which is good news.
In the back row, Dan Belton, Josh Corcoran and Torran MacDougall stay in their respective positions. All three work hard for each other and we are happy with the balance in the back row. Ollie Cain made another very good impact when he came on to the pitch on Saturday and made two stunning breaks, along with some great defensive hits. He is really pushing hard for a starting spot, which is great. Chris Joannou has returned from international duty for Cyprus but has not been considered this week, which is tough as he played very well in his last game for Hertford.
That's the easy stuff out of the way!! At scrum half, Michael Sargent got a red card after 22 minutes at Southend and by the letter of the law he was guilty. We have no complaints about it and he possibly has his hearing on Thursday night. Whatever the outcome, we have banned him for this week as it makes selection and preparation for the squad much easier. Jack Mitchell, who was on the bench last week and came on for Sargent at scrum half (we sacrificed Kyle Lemon) played outstandingly well. His defensive work was top-class and his distribution was good. He will start at scrum half this week. We considered Ben Creasey, who had a good game for the 2nd XV but also came off with a twisted ankle. These are tough calls but I can assure you all it is done with the best intentions of the whole squad and not just individual players. We have spoken to Ben and told him what he needs to work on and I am sure he will play 1st XV rugby this season.
Ben Lloyd continues at number 10. By his own admission he had a shaky first 20 minutes against Southend but that goes for the whole starting 15. He is a real leader for us and is one of the hardest working players we have. Bertie Walters had another good game in the 2nd XV and is also pushing Ben hard for a starting berth.
The wingers remain the same as last week, with Michael Allan and Kyle Lemon both starting. It was a tough call bringing Kyle off last week when we went down to 14 men and he came on for the last 20 mins and set up our last try. Both players continue to impress with their work rate and desire to improve. Sean Taylor continues at full back after another good display last weekend. Rory Seymour and Harry Glennon both had good games in the 2nd XV and we would love to have these two on the bench if at this level you were allowed more subs.
The centre partnership will allow Aaron Lowe to come in to the starting lineup at 13, with Stuart Smart reverting back to 12. Aaron had a rest week against Southend and his attitude has been brilliant all week and also on Saturday where he ran the warm up. Richard Streets goes on the bench this week and will get plenty of game time on Saturday after some very good displays in the 12 shirt.
Team wise that's it this week and we look forward to welcoming newcomers Sidcup to Hoe Lane on Saturday. If there was any complacency against Southend then I am sure minds will be more focused this week, especially in the first 20 minutes! However, I must say that after being 17 points down and going down to 14 men for 60 minutes of the game we were very proud of the way the boys kept focus and got back into the game. It says a lot about the character of this group and that they did not look for excuses. As coaches, we try to develop the players and give them the tools and tactics to win games but you can't coach blood and guts and the boys wanting to fight for each other!
See you all on Saturday!
1st XV to play Sidcup
15. Sean Taylor
14. Michael Allan
13. Aaron Lowe
12. Stuart Smart
11. Kyle Lemon
10. Ben Lloyd
9. Jack Mitchell
1. Harry Morgan
2. Chris Joyce
3. Geoff Hughes
4. Jack Elston
5. James Kinsley
6. Dan Belton
7. Josh Corcoran (c)
8. Torran MacDougall
16. Josh Hewitt
Updated 07:51 - 10 Dec 2017 by Mick Faires
17. Ollie Cain
18. Richard Streets