If Not Now; When?

Seta Raumakita captains a much changed XV from last week with only 3 players remaining in the starting XV.
Brad Janes starts at centre. Last season he won his 1st cap, earned a trip to Japan with UKAF and had a memorable game in the annual Remembrance fixture.
Craig Duncan literally burst on to the scene in the 2019 Inter Services having taken his chance in February.
When you work hard and fancy a change of venue from Burnaby Road you aim for Toulon, the Stoop and Twickenham.

Last season Craig Duncan made a measured debut against Cambridge University in a season which saw him establish himself at full back and play in all three capped games.  By contrast Brad Janes announced his arrival with a full-on blood and thunder hard line from a lineout against Esher.  Like Craig he was to play in all three capped matches.  They were both to team up later in the year wearing UK Armed Forces colours in the International Defence Rugby Cup match against France.  So, as you ponder how important the February matches are, what opportunities they may hold, simply think of the delight Craig Duncan must have felt as he crossed the line to score at the Twickenham Stoop against the Royal Air Force when winning his second cap.  Or Brad Janes as he crossed for a brace against Georgia and then again against France as he helped UKAF make the final in Japan.  It puts in to perspective the importance of a cold, damp February night at Esher.  Now is the time when performances have to impress and as Brad Janes returns to the side he will be looking to stamp his growing authority on to the midfield.

Another extended squad has been chosen to give everyone a chance before Head Coach Dave Pascoe starts paring down the squad for the Exeter Braves match and the capped games that follow afterwards.  He will not be looking for the team to emulate last season’s 42-24 win. Instead he will be looking for a little more control from his players, a little more continuity and a little more cohesion.  If the players can achieve this then Dave will know that they have learnt some lessons from last week’s match against Cambridge University and progress is being made.  At this stage of the season the performance not the result looms large in the coaches’ inner most thoughts.  But for the rest of us who just look on, a win, of course, would be good.

As expected, the starting XV shows many changes from last week with only Seta Raumakita, as captain, and Troy Gobey keeping their places in the backline.  Whilst in the forwards John Kirwin is the sole survivor.  However overall the team is a little more experienced in terms of the starting XV with a number of capped players returning throughout the spine of the side.  This should help provide some of the control that Pascoe will be looking for.

Esher RFC v Royal Navy Senior XV, Esher RFC KO: 19:30

Starting XV: SLt Scott Bentley RN, LPT Ben Priddey *, L/Cpl Aaron Wilman *, NA(AH) Ben Watson *, LS(HM) John Kirwan *, Lt Joe Martin RM, MNE Toby Papp, MNE Watisoni ‘Toots’ Vakalutukali *, LAET Sam Carter, MNE Nathan Huntley *, L/Cpl Troy Gobey, MNE Setareki Raumakita * (Capt), AET Brad Janes *, Surg Lt Henry Hughes RN, LAET Ben Chambers *

Replacements: AET Connor Bick, ET(ME) Richie Ives, SLt James Holt RN, ET(ME) Matt Scott, AET Hayden Wilkinson, MNE Will Scott, MNE Rory Bonnick, AB(SC) Timoci Kava *, SLt Elliott Woodhead, AB(AWW) Jake Hanley, MNE Kai Baker, LCpl Mitch Bennett, MNE Henry Gliddon

* - -Denotes capped player

By line: Geraint Ashton Jones
Images credit © Alligin Photography