Henley Hawks open their league programme in National 2 South with a home game against local rivals, Redingensians Rams in the Battle of the Thames (kick off 3 p.m). This is a repeat of the opening fixture of last season except that the Hawks were away on that occasion. However, they won a close encounter 26-22 and indeed pulled off the double winning the return game, another narrow affair, 17-12. at Dry Leas in January.
Nevertheless, the Rams had the bragging rights as far as final league positions were concerned finishing 6th, three places above the Hawks who wee ninth..
One of the problems the Hawks had last season was consistency, in part due to the reliance on the availability of dual registered players being released by Premiership Clubs and then often only a day or two before matches. This will not be feature this season as such arrangements with senior clubs are now a thing of the past.
Pre-season games have showed that the Hawks have built a squad which will be reliant on recruitment of players who have come to the Club on a permanent basis and of appropriate experience and ability, backed by the Bulls who will challenge for places in the Hawks’ squad.
The side selected for this game with the Rams reflects this and the only player who will be playing from the previous policy of selecting players from a Premiership background is scrum-half, Connor Murphy who in the previous seasons has made occasional appearances from London Irish. He has signed a short term contract which will terminate at the end of September when hetakes up a professional contract in the emerging league in the USA.
There are only two new names in the starting line up. Ian Stock is at loose head prop. Formerly captain at Amersham and Chiltern, Stock has settled in well in his new surroundings. The other is at wing, Jack Robinson, in the number 11 shirt. He has moved from Oxford Harlequins and is expected to show considerable pace.
Other changes are positional. With the arrival of Connor Murphy, George Jackson has moved over to the other half-back position with success in pre-season games. He takes the place of Joe Butler who moves to full back. Tom Hall and Sam Portland are not available for selection because of injury.
A strong bench includes Matthew Tibbatts at no.8, formerly at Chinnor, John Wunder who has moved from Australlia where he played in top grade rugby in New South Wales in the front row, and Michel Kruzycki who has 32 international caps for his native Poland and formerly played locally for Reading Abbey.
The Hawks line-up is :-
1. Ian Stock, 2. Tom Emery, 3. Dave Manning 4. David Hyde, 5. Jake Albon (capt,), 6. Tom Haynes, 7. Rob Bell, 8. Marcus Lowe, 9. Connor Murphy, 10. George Jackson, 11. Jack Robinson, 12. Liam O’Neill, 13. Alan Awcock, 14. Xavier Andre, 15. Joe Butler
16. Brad Cook, 17. John Wunder, 18. Michel Kruzycki, 19, Mathew Tibbatts, 20. Harry Burns
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