Cavaliers Serious Test as Royal Navy Shake Down for Le Crunch

Johnny Stephen at scrum half in action during last year’s match against Worcester
Gaz Evans is definitely out of contention for Le Crunch with a suspected broken ankle
Greg Welling proved a handful last season when given space to run
Only Ben Priddey survives from last year’s front row and will again captain the side
Jon Humphrey provides cover at fly half as well as a strong counter attacking threat from fullback
Dave Fairbrother made a good impression at 6 last year but starts in his preferred position of Number 8 on Wednesday

A Worcester Cavaliers side, that is likely to feature former Navy winger Josh Drauniniu, will provide the perfect test for the Royal Navy squad just back from their Malta Training Camp. With the first trophy match of the year, against Marine Nationale the following week, the Navy will be looking to put their theories and training plans in to practice against a team that will play the match with a physicality and pace they have yet to meet this season. Ideal preparation for Le Crunch.

The selected side has a familiar feel about it with the exception of Darren Bamford at outside centre. He returns from injury to make his first start of the season in a new partnership with Matt Tichias. Bamford, with both League and Union honours, will be looking to press his case for inclusion in the Inter Service squads and to add to the three caps he won in 2012.

Inside the Bamford/Tichias partnership, Johnny Stephen and Nathan Huntley are once more selected together at halfback. In this fixture, last year, both had notable games and will be looking to again take the game to Worcester at every opportunity. With a back three of Matt Bowden, Jon Humphrey and Greg Welling there is both pace and creativity to exploit any space that can be created.

That will probably depend very much on how the battle unfolds up front. Last season the Royal Navy took a little while to get up to the pace of the game but when they did the forwards posed the home side a number of problems with ball in hand and at set piece.

Ben Priddey will once more captain the side from hooker with Kyle Mason and Tom Blackburn making up an all Fleet Air Arm front row. The familiar names of Tom Cowley, Marsh Cormack, Matt Harvey and Dave Fairbrother are all in the back five with Seti Raumakita winning the battle for the number 7 jersey.

With only Matt Bowden being uncapped it is a strong selection with experience right throughout the side and also on the bench. Harry Collins, Kye Beasley and John Court provide experienced cover for the front row whilst B Buinimasi’s recent form brings real power on to the bench to cover centre with Tom Davies the fifth capped player on the bench bringing his versatility to cover most of the outside back positions.

Scott Puleston and Edd Pascoe are the other two forward replacements with Cory Moore again understudying Johnny Stephen at scrum half. All three will no doubt gain from the Sixways experience.

With only a week before the match against Marine Nationale it is likely that the team selected to face the Cavaliers will be the core of the side for the first capped game of the season. One player who is definitely out of contention for that game is the 21 times capped, Gaz Evans. Having missed Le Crunch last season due to professional reasons, a suspected broken ankle
sustained playing for his club, Oakhampton, has side lined him for the time being. A review in less than two weeks will confirm the extent of the
injury and whether it is a new fracture or less serious damage to a previous one. Naturally all who follow Navy Rugby wish him a
speedy recovery.

Royal Navy Team v Worcester Cavaliers: Kyle Mason *, Ben Priddey (Capt) *, Tom Blackburn *, Tom Cowley *, Marsh Cormack *. Matt Harvey *, Seti Raumakita *, Dave Fairbrother *, Johnny Stephen *, Nathan Huntley *, Matt Bowden, Matt Tichias *, Darren Bamford * Greg Welling *, Jon Humphrey *

Replacements: Harry Collins *, Kye Beasley *, John Court *, Scott Puleston, Edd Pascoe, Cory Moore, Silvenuis Buinimasi *, Tom Davies *

*- capped player

Worcester Cavaliers v Royal Navy, Wednesday 25th March, Sixways Stadium, Worcester, KO19:45

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Alligin Photography / © Geraint Ashton Jones & © Richard Crane