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Hartpury
*Stalwart (IP Logged)
23 April, 2019 14:20
Interesting piece by Owen Slott, from The Times:

Hartpury’s survival bid stretches spirit of the game to breaking point
“This is certainly the biggest game in the club’s history,” Mark Cornwell, the Hartpury head coach, said before their crucial fixture against London Scottish on Saturday. How fortunate, then, that he was able to call up Lewis Ludlow, the Gloucester flanker, who went over for two tries in a man-of-the-match performance in the 43-22 win that ensured their survival from relegation in the Greene King IPA Championship.

It was maybe fortunate, too, that he could call up Ben Vellacott, another Gloucester player, for the game. Yes, that is the same Ben Vellacott who was on the verge of the England squad 12 months ago.

Hartpury’s run of form, which has saved them from the drop, includes four wins from their past six games, a period which coincides almost exactly with the time that Vellacott has been playing with them. Probably, though, the biggest game in the club’s history was not London Scottish on Saturday but against fellow strugglers Richmond in February. For that game, Hartpury’s fortune extended so far that they could recruit 11 players from Gloucester and Bristol to help them out.

Two players came in for that game who never played for them before or since; Mat Protheroe was turning out for Hartpury against Richmond one week and then for Bristol against Harlequins the next.

Yes, Hartpury did beat Richmond and the inevitable shake-down was completed at the weekend. Hartpury survive, Richmond go down.

Hartpury are fortunate because the RFU’s rules allow any club ten players who are also registered with a Gallagher Premiership team, plus three loan players. No one really contemplated that you might play almost all of them at the same time. Dual registration is a fine idea in principle because it encourages Premiership teams to share their up-and-coming players to give them experience. It wasn’t meant for the likes of Gareth Denman, who has been in the Premiership for nine years, to come in for one game (against Richmond) because Hartpury are petrified of relegation.

These are financial decisions too. You go down, you lose your £570,000 RFU funding. Maybe those Hartpury players who were ditched for that big Richmond game don’t feel so sore any more. Maybe Hartpury have been smart. Maybe I should declare a Richmond allegiance. Yet it is not just in this corner of London that rugby people are asking whether Hartpury are playing within, or remotely close to, the spirit of the game.


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