HENLEY HAWKS’ bid to reclaim their National 1 status starts on Saturday with their first warm-up game against premiership side London Welsh at Dry Leas (kick-off 3pm).
The Hawks will unveil several new recruits as well as retaining the majority of the squad which was relegated to National Division 2 South on the last day of the season at Tynedale.
The Hawks have developed an exciting young squad which will feature senior academy players from Wasps in the shape of George Edgson (hooker), Tom West (prop, England U18), Harry Glover (centre/wing) and England U20 centre Piers O’Connor.
In addition Hawks director of rugby Nigel Dudding has announced a new partnership with London Irish and welcomes Connor Murphy (Ireland U18 scrum half) and Theo Vukasinovic (second row) to join the squad. Nick Kennedy, academy manager at London Irish said: “I’m really happy to be in partnership with Henley Hawks, it’s an excellent rugby club with great coaches that are helping to develop the next generation of London Irish players.
“Henley have a good mix of youth and experience that our players can learn from whilst playing rugby week in week out.
“At London Irish we believe young players need game time and Henley Hawks are helping us to get our players game time and feel part of a team.”
The Hawks have also strengthened their squad with three signings from the RAF in the shape of Tim Coughlan (prop), Lloyd Owen (wing) and Tom Gardner (centre).
They will follow in the footsteps of Josh McNally who has departed Dry Leas and becomes the first RAF player to gain a premiership contract with London Welsh.
Other new recruits are Fred Pierrepont (centre) with National 1 experience with Loughborough Students, Tom Hall (back row) who was capped by England students and hails from the UWIC rugby academy, Samir Kharbouch (back row) from Redingensians and Jordan Brodley from Bristol University.
In addition a number of ex AASE academy students move up into the senior squad from their time with the successful Henley College.
On the coaching front Peter Davies assumes the role of head coach and Luke Allen will begin his coaching career as forwards coach. Another development sees the appointment of Will Downing as strength and conditioning coach and he has spent considerable time, assessing and working with the whole squad to improve fitness levels and the overall strength of the players. As well as McNally’s departure, Martin Nutt, Ryan Long and Jaryd Robinson have all left the Hawks and joined local rivals Chinnor while Luke Carter has made the switch to Rosslyn Park. Liam Dwyer has returned to Australia after his visa expired.
The squad for tomorrow’s match is as follows — first half: Tom West, Jordan Brodley, Tim Coughlan, Will Woodward, Dave Clements, Ben Ashmore, Ryan Newman, Barty Carsons, Micky Molloy, Guy Swadling, Lloyd Owen, Dan Barnes, Piers O’Connor, Fred Pierrepont, Tom Allen. Replacements: Sam Beckett, Ed Church, Jake O’Leary, Samir Kharbouch, Chris Emmett, Mark Bruce, Rory Lillington, Conor Corrigan.
Second half: Dave Manning, George Edgson, Sam Steventon, James Bloxham, Theo Vukasinovic, Tom Hall, Tommy Hayes, Rob Stapley, Mark Bruce, James Comben, Harry Glover, Danny Wells, Tom Gardner, Christoph Bart, Will Jones. Replacements: Sam Beckett, George Hayes, Tim Coghlan, Dave Clements, Jake O’Leary, Samir Kharbouch, Tom Steinler, Will Woodward, Micky Molloy, Conor Corrigan, Lloyd Owen, Tom Allen, Rory Lillington.