Navy Senior XV Relishing Home Fixture After Oxford False Start

Nathan Huntley prises open the Cambridge defence last season
Matt Harvey foils a Cambridge University counter attack
Typical strong running from Matt Tichias as he looks to break another tackle
Hooker Harry Collins enjoyed the high tempo off loading game at Grange Rd in 2014
An eye for a gap, scrum half Johnny Stephen will be looking to exploit any space around the rucks
The versatile Tom Davies not only has a good kicking game but provides another counter attacking option from fullback

With the weather having claimed their opening fixture away to Oxford University, the Royal Navy now open their 2015 Inter Service campaign at Burnaby Road where they host the Light Blues of Cambridge University.  With essentially the same side as named to play Oxford, the Navy will hopefully benefit from a little extra time together.  They will face a Cambridge University side determined to improve, under new captain Don Stevens, after losses to both the Army and the Royal Air Force.

Comparisons from season to season, particularly so early when the Navy traditionally look at their options, are always invidious but if Wednesday night at Burnaby Road is anything like this fixture last year then the spectators are in for a treat.  Having made the long journey to Grange Road the Royal Navy team clicked and produced an excellent performance of 15-man flowing rugby that eventually produced an emphatic 64-19 victory.  It was the match when Matt Harvey really made a statement of intent and also a game where Nathan Huntley and Matt Tichias combined to regularly split the Light Blues defence.  All three will be looking to make a similar impression in the opening fixture in a team that shows just one change from the side announced last week.

In what is traditionally an open game, Matt Harvey is part of a pack well suited to again replicate the off loading style of play that keeps the ball alive and moving.  Harry Collins, Kye Beasley and the returning Andrew Dennis are all able to keep the ball alive in the narrow channels and bring the big runners like Scott Puleston, Gaz Evans and young Luke Berry in to the match.  Whilst loosehead prop, Kyle Mason brings the stable foundation at set piece and guard defence which all teams require.

Jonny Stephen at half back relishes any chink of space around the fringes and his understanding with fly half Josh Jones, along with quick service, should allow Nathan Huntley and Matt Tichias the space they require to create their cutting angles of running.  Outside them Matt Bowden, Roko Kurasasa both know their way to the try line given a little space whilst the versatility of fullback Tom Davies should show in both attack and defence.

The importance of defence shouldn’t be over looked because although they have had a difficult last couple of seasons, Cambridge remain a side that when they do get it right can pose problems to the meanest of defences.  They will be hoping that new skipper, scrum half Don Stevens, will be able to start the long awaited resurgence in their fortunes as they, like, the Royal Navy, look to find their best combinations for the games ahead.  For the Light Blues it is a December Twickenham date and the task of stopping Oxford from making it six in a row. 

For the Royal Navy the tests are closer at hand, 1 April will bring the Marine Nationale to Burnaby Road in the first capped game of the season before the Navy meets the challenge of the Royal Air Force, at RAF Halton, to open the 2015 Inter Services on 15 April.  With the season finale again likely to sell out Twickenham on 9 May it is sure to be a full on season.  It all starts at Burnaby Road on Wednesday with the Royal Navy looking to start their season with a performance from which they can build as they bed in their new systems and new personnel.

Team: Kyle Mason *, Harry Collins *, Kye Beasley *, Matt Harvey *, Luke Berry, Scott Puleston, Andrew Dennis *, Gaz Evans *, Johnny Stephen *, Josh Jones, Matt Bowden, Nathan Huntley *, Matt Tichias *, Ratu Roko Kurasasa, Tom Davies *

Replacements yet to be named

* - capped player

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Article by Geraint Ashton Jones
Images Alligin Photography / © Geraint Ashton Jones