Rugby: Friendlies give Chichester ideal warm-up

Chris Johnson will captain the Blues this season / Picture by Kate Shemilt C150354-6
Chris Johnson will captain the Blues this season / Picture by Kate Shemilt C150354-6

CHICHESTER RFC rounded off their pre-season preparation with a solid performance against National three south-west outfit Bournemouth at Oaklands Park, securing an encouraging 22-13 win.

The Blues used the four quarters to try out a number of combinations and some new players, with a squad of 27 involved.

The following day, another large Chichester squad took on a University of Chichester side in another very useful workout.

The Blues scored six tries to the university’s one and the coaching team again had a good chance to run the rule over their players.

In total, 48 players appeared over the two games.

It sets them up nicely for this Saturday’s National three London south-east opener at home to Tonbridge Juddians (3pm).

The early signs are good with a number of new players and developing players really coming into the mix.

Paul Colley

Player-coach Danny Gray said: “It was pleasing that we scored four tries to one and saw many of the things we have been working on at training coming to fruition. There’s certainly a long way to go but this was definitely a good way to run into our first league game.”

Fellow player-coach Ken Dowding added: “There’s lots more to work on but we were really pleased with the progression and the integration of some new players into our new systems. Selection is going to be tough with a lot of players holding their hands up.”

Director of rugby Paul Colley said: “Rob (Lawrence, head coach) and I are pleased with the progression in recent weeks and there were some really good elements to the Bournemouth game.

“As we enter what will undoubtedly be a very tough and challenging season, we know we will need strength in depth and to evolve new plays.

“The early signs are good with a number of new players and developing players really coming into the mix.”

Head coach Rob Lawrence said he was delighted with the commitment and sharpness shown in training.

But he warned: “Only in a competitive match will we see how far we have come and how far we have to go.

“We have a large senior squad and there are many good prospects coming through and pushing for a place. Everyone has a chance to get in our side.”

TJs have, in recent years, invested heavily in their playing squad and you 
don’t really know from one year to the next how strong they will be.

Colley added: “What we do know is that although we finished above them last year, with that kind of financial firepower they will be a huge test. We encourage old and new supporters alike to try to get along to Oaklands Park for this exciting opener.”

View from the touchline

by Roger Gould

In their second season in National three London and south-east, Chichester will play a very challenging 26 league games against strong and well-organised teams who will be prepared by experienced coaches.

The complete list of opponents is Bracknell, Colchester, Eton Manor, East Grinstead, Guernsey, Gravesend, Hertford, London Irish Amateur, Shelford, Tonbridge Juddians, Westcliff, Westcombe Park and Wimbledon.

Away games will mean a lot of travelling and Chi will look forward to their flight to Guernsey for their second match on September 12.

They will also relish the encounters with Eton Manor, who they beat in a play off for promotion in 2014, and with Wimbledon, who beat Chi twice narrowly in London one south.

My guess is that East Grinstead, London Irish Amateur, Bracknell and Wimbledon will be especially hard to beat.

Chi will need a large squad to be successful – last season, injuries and unavailability took their toll. Once again they will have to be underpinned by their talented second XV, who will also be competing in a tough league.

Supporters will be urging their team to get off to a good start which proved vital last season after they won their first four games.

Oaklands Park promises great excitement again, so the club will anticipate large crowds in front of the excellent extended clubhouse.

The best of luck from supporters goes to the lads, whose team spirit is so important.

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