Saturday, 05 December 2020

Hawks primed with new-look squad

NEWLY-PROMOTED Henley Hawks will “shock a lot of teams” this season, according to coach Pete Davies.

NEWLY-PROMOTED Henley Hawks will “shock a lot of teams” this season, according to coach Pete Davies.

The Hawks get their National League 1 campaign underway tomorrow (Saturday) when they face Rosslyn Park, last season’s runners-up.

Davies says he is very confident in his team after a good pre-season and can’t wait to start the campaign.

He said: “We’ve had a fantastic pre-season with three very good fixtures against Bedwas, Pontypridd and an RAF XV. All the players were given the opportunity to show their form and they’ve come through without too many injuries.

“We are confident in our ability but also cautious that this league is very tough and every week is going to be a difficult game.



“The teams have a lot of strength in depth and more money to pay for players but we are confident and we are going to shock a lot of teams this season.”

The Hawks were relegated from National League 1 in 2014 after a last-day draw at Tynedale but roared back to win the league last season with a record three games to spare.

Davies said: “Last year we started to play a different brand of rugby which is probably more suited to this league.

“I don’t think our style of play is why we got relegated last time, it was to do with squad depth and we have rectified that this time.

“We now have more forwards and if we are lucky with injuries we can have confidence in both the players and the game plan.

“Conditioning was also a key factor the season we got relegated, we picked up a lot of injuries during the year and that’s something we’ve worked on.

“We will certainly be punching above our weight this year.”

About 15 new faces have come through the door at Dry Leas during the summer break, including the returning Ant Brennan, Jake Abraham and Jack Bradford from Loughborough University and Jack Willis from London Wasps. Davies said: "Our recruitment has gone really well and we are impressed by the guys who have come in, they’ve all gelled as a group.

“We wanted to get good blokes, not just good players and they are all great people desperate to represent the club and jersey. They’ve all become close friends very quickly.

“Charlie Davey is a brilliant young prospect from Cornish Pirates and James Halliwell is an Australian scrum half who has played in Sydney and will be joining at the end of the month.”

Davies also says that Connor Murphy, who broke his leg playing against Dings Crusaders in April, is fit and available for tomorrow’s game after training with London Irish.

The only absentee will be Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas, who picked up a shoulder injury during pre-season.

Davies says Rosslyn Park will be a tough test but anything can happen in early-season games.

He said: “I think we can get something out of it. They are a very good team with a big squad but that doesn’t count for a great deal in the first game of the season. They will have 15 blokes and we will have 15 blokes and we will go as hard as we can on Saturday and see what comes out of it. They would be foolish to take us lightly.”

The Hawks will face a Rosslyn Park side that is full of confidence having installed a G4 playing surface during the summer along with other improvements to their ground, which is known as the Rock, to follow.

On the playing side, they are boosted by the appointment of James Buckland as head coach having just moved over from London Scottish.

Like the Hawks, Park have been playing Welsh Premier league sides pre-season and achieved victories over Newport 56-27 and Cardiff 47-23.

Games between the two sides have tended to be close and the last time they met at Dry Leas two seasons ago it was a hard-fought 6-6 draw.

The Hawks’ first home game is against Blackheath on Saturday, September 19.



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