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Tom Little’s guide to the 2017-18 season with details of ins and outs, retained players and changes in coaching personnel at Coventry Rugby’s rivals. Where possible, player movements have been cross checked, but not all clubs have made information available so the following may not be definitive.

It was goodbye to relegated Blaydon and Macclesfield and promoted Hartpury College at the end of last season, and it’s welcome to three newcomers – Bishop’s Stortford, Caldy and Old Elthamians.

The RFU has allowed an increase in dual registered and loan academy players to up to ten per club with an additional three other on-loan players permitted. What effect this has will provide an interesting backdrop to the season.

Any views expressed are solely those of the author.


Ampthill & District

Third and fourth over the past two seasons, Ampthill have a very experienced coaching set-up led by director of rugby Paul Turner to go with an experienced side. The majority of the squad has been retained, and Ampthill have close links with Premiership club Saracens and  Bedford Blues from the championship. They have made some impressive new signings.

Out: Joe Tarrant (fly-half, Blackheath), Vili Ma’asi (front row, Peterborough Lions), Henry Peck (prop, Cambridge).

In: James Pritchard (full-back, Old Albanian), Alex Woolford (lock, London Scottish), Simon Pitfield (No.8, Loughborough Studens), Josh Sharp (fly-half, Loughborough Students), Stef Liebenberg (scrum-half, Cambridge), Jack Culverton (prop, Bedford), Josh Taylor (hooker, Old Albanian), Owain James (wing, Wasps, DR), Billy Johnson (No.8, Old Albanian), Carl Burgess (lock, Old Northamptonians), Karl Garside (prop, Old Albanian), Syd Blackmore (flanker, Bath), Lawrence Rayner (fly-half, Nottingham).

Main retentions: Sam Baker (wing), Matt Collins (prop), Paino  Hehea (lock), Elliott Reeder (centre), Will Goodge (centre), Peter Weightman (wing), Ben Gulliver (lock), Alex Lutui (hooker), Joe Bercis (flanker), Haloti Molitika (back row), Kevin Barratt (scrum-half), Sam Hanks (centre), Karim Lynch (full-back).


Birmingham Moseley

Finished fifth last season. Long-serving director of rugby Kevin Maggs has been replaced by Richard Protherough, and new head coach is Simon Cross, joining from Worcester  Warriors, with Tim  Molenaar and Ollie Thomas as coaches. They have forged closer ties with Premiership club Worcester Warriors over training and coaching, and have had a large turnover of experienced players over the summer with some major departures and more new signings than retentions.

Out:  Jack Preece (flanker), Alex Grove (centre), Dave Brazier (scrum-half), George Oram (lock, all to Coventry), Drew Cheshire (centre, Rotherham), Will Crane (prop), James Williams (fly-half), Ed Sheldon (wing, all to ( Hartpury RFC), Johnny Lea (half-back, Caldy), Sam Pailor-(back row, Stourbridge).

In: Rob Lewis (scrum-half, Ebbw Vale), Laurence Cowen (flanker, Hull Ionians), Jonah Boyce (prop, Loughborough Students), James Tideswell (prop, Cinderford), Chris Leathem (back, Cambridge), Sam Pointon (scrum-half, Loughborough Students), James Dixon (fly-half, British Army), Callum MacBurnie (centre, Coventry), Sam Smith (centre, Coventry), Lewis Bean (lock, British Army), Buster Lawrence (flanker, Rotherham), Jay Tyack (prop, Chinnor), Joe Wrafter (prop, Hartpury RFC).

Main retentions: Chris Brightwell (No.8), Jacques Le Roux(back row), Mike Penn (full-back), Tim Molenaar (centre), Mark Harrison (wing), Greg King (centre), Tom Fidler (prop), Adam Caves (hooker), Aaron Crofts (lock), Sam Brown (scrum-half), James Burgoyne (prop).


Bishop’s Stortford

Promoted as champions of National Two South. A high-scoring side under director of rugby and head coach Andy Long, they have new coaches in Dan Leo (from London Cornish) and club stalwart Tom Coleman (backs). They are a largely locally-based and recruited side.

Out: Tom Coleman (fly-half, retired), Seb Brownhill (prop, Loughborough Students).

In: Cameron Ives (wing, Henley), Josh Wright (fly-half, Saracens Academy, DR), Dan Leo (No.8, London Cornish),  George Cullen (fly-half, London Scottish), Sam James (hooker, Bedford), George Keen (centre).

Main retentions: Sam Coleman (scrum-half), Nick Hankin (centre), Sam Winter (centre), Jon George (hooker), James Rea (wing), Sean Edwards (prop), William Roberts (prop), Rory Banks (No.8), James Apperley (lock), Dan Elsom (flanker), Tom McCrone (prop), Jack Scantlebury (centre), Chris Aldam (lock), Alex Patton ( No.8), Tom Banks (half-back), Tom Cattell (hooker), Will Roberts (hooker), Rory Young (prop), Steve Ball (flanker).



Finished seventh last season after another very inconsistent campaign.  New head coach is James Shanahan, moving from Old Albanian, with coaches Andy Holloway and Tom Stradwick, and settled at their new Well Hall ground at Eltham, they have recruited some experienced players.

Out: Simon Watling (fly-half, retired), Chris Walker (flanker), Greg Gillanders (lock), Dan George (hooker, all to London Scottish), Jesse Liston (flanker, Richmond).

In: Danny Herriott (prop , Rotherham), Matt Miles (hooker, Old Albanian), Harry Bate (flanker, Old Albanian), Josh  Davies (scrum-half, Ealing), Joe Tarrant (fly-half, Ampthill), Chakwuma Oszuwa (lock, Chinnor), Hayden King (prop, Old Albanian), Sam Evans (full-back).

Main retentions: Jake Bedding (scrum-half), Jake Lloyd (wing), Michael Mvelase (full-back), Leo Fielding (full-back, fly-half), Harry Fry (hooker), Sam Farmer (back row), Shaun English (lock), Tom Baldwin (flanker), Mark Cooke (centre), Sam Eydmann (scrum-half), Alan Pickersgill (centre), George Baker (flanker), Tom Stradwick (lock), Geoff Griffiths (wing), Marcus Burcham (centre), Freddie Owen (lock, back row), Kieron Scutt (prop).



Promoted as National Two North champions. Director of rugby Gareth Davies is supported by head coach Simon Verbickas and coach Andy Kyriacou. They have recruited more experienced players.

Out: John Broxson (scrum-half, retired), Jack Lavin (centre, Esher), Fraser Smale (lock, injury).

In: Nick Gray (lock, Fylde), Nyle Davidson (flanker, Macclesfield), Chris Pilgrim (scrum-half, Yorkshire Carnegie), Elliott Millar Mills (prop, Macclesfield), Mark Dixon (fly-half, Loughborough Students), Joe Doyle (centre, London Scottish), Johnny Lea (fly-half, Birmingham Moseley).

Main retentions: Tom Sanders (lock), Forbes Edwards (centre), Tommy Banks (centre, wing), Gavin Roberts (full-back), Rhys Hayes (fly-half), Jack Collister (lock, back row, Tom Concu (prop), Ted Stagg (hooker), Harrison Crowe (flanker), Luke Harris (flanker), Jack Beevers (wing), Louis Mcgowan (lock), Richard Vasey (fly-half), Dan Salisbury (hooker), Derek Salisbury (prop), Alexi Mouarkach (wing), Andrew Soutar (full-back), Nick Royle (wing), Stu Cross (No.8), Ben Jones (scrum-half), Jack Parker (prop).



Finished a disappointing 14th last season under director of rugby Ross Stewart and were only saved from relegation by the demise of London Welsh and their own ability to secure try bonus points. An adventurous side, but defensive lapses led to too many defeats. Experienced Darren fox has returned from Peterborough Lions as player-coach. They have close ties with Premiership club Northampton Saints and an even closer link Bedford Blues from the Championship.

Out: Chris Leathem (wing, full-back, Birmingham Moseley), Tom Trotter (scrum-half, Esher), Dan Seal (prop), Ricky Reeves (prop), Stef Liebenberg (scrum-half, Ampthill).

In: Darren Fox (flanker, Peterborough Lions), Henry Peck (prop, Ampthill), Rob Conquest (lock, Darlington Mowden Park), Pierre Peres (scrum-half, Bury St Edmunds), Lewis Barker (scrum-half, Old Northamptonians), Cameron Keenan (scrum-half, Otley), Joe Brittain (flanker), Joe Green (full-back), Matt Waring (lock).

Main retentions: Keifer Laxton (flanker), Matt Meek (No.8), Ben Penfold (fly-half), Wade Schoeman (back row), Owain Collard (centre), George Bretag-Norris (lock), Jake McCloud (No.8), Ben Ibrahim (prop), Shane Moynihan (prop), Tom Nutley (back row), Louis Rawlings (flanker), James Ayrton (centre), Mike Ayrton (wing), Jack Green (fly-half), Lawrence Hutchinson (wing), Oli Petrides (centre), Devant Onojaife (lock, back row), Matt Worrall-Clare (hooker), Albert Portsmouth (centre).


Darlington Mowden Park

Slipped to tenth place last season after finishing sixth the year before due to inconsistency and a poor start. Less turnover of players this season. Coaches are Garry Law and Mark Luffman, joining from Otley. They have close links with Newcastle Falcons from the Premiership and should do better with a more settled and experienced side.

Out: James Penman (hooker, Nottingham), Tim Duchesne (scrum-half, Jersey Reds), Rob Conquest (lock, Cambridge), Joel Gill (wing, Wharfedale), James FitzPatrick (centre, Preston Grasshoppers), Jamie Barnard (back).

In: Matt Dudman (scrum-half, Rotherham), Dan Preston-Routledge (lock, Yorkshire Carnegie), Warren Seals (fly-half, Yorkshire Carnegie), Alfie Barron (prop , Hartpury RFC), Jack Blakeney-Edwards (fly-half, Otley).

Main retentions: Chris Auld (centre), Ben Frankland (centre), Dave Fisher (lock), Talite Vaioleti (lock), Chris Wood (hooker), Josh Bragman (fly-half, full-back), Joe Craggs (hooker, flanker), Matt Heaton (flanker), Ralph Appleby (prop), Ollie Hodgson (flanker), Ignas Darkintis (prop), Gary Law (fly-half), Maia Gibbs (scrum-half), Rory Duff (back row), Callum MacKenzie (wing), Callum Burke (lock), Grant Connon (full-back), Shaun Mccartney (wing),  Adam Radwan (wing, Newcastle Falcons, DR).



Were also inconsistent last season, finishing well to secure eighth place under director of rugby Ricky Nebbutt. Head coach is Tom Williams. They have links with Premiership clubs Harlequins and London Irish, taking four dual registered players from each. Should do better this time.

Out: Peter Synnott (flanker, retired), Neil Sweeney (hooker, retired), Andy Wright (wing), Tom Yellowlees (flanker), Sam Stanley (back).

In: Tom Trotter (scrum-half, Cambridge), Ali Bone (No.8, Chinnor), Kariym Irving (wing, Worthing), Jack Lavin (fly-half, Caldy), Marcus Smith (fly-half), Niall Saunders (scrum-half), Ben Loader (wing), Chris Arnold (centre, Australia), Samir Karbouch (back row), George Bvuma (wing).

Main retentions: Andy Garner (scrum-half), Karl Furey (front row), Cameron Zeiss (prop), Cameron Leigh (prop), Charlie Gossington (back row), Hugo Solway (lock, back row), Lloyd Davies (wing), Joe Brown (centre), Devlin Hope (hooker), Spencer Sutherland (wing),  Cameron Gentles (lock, back row), Paul Roberts (fly-half), Hugo Seccombe (lock, back row), Liam Edwards (lock), Ollie Marriott (lock), Callum O’Connell (hooker, flanker), Matt Lowes (prop), Callum Monks (full-back).



They finished a disappointing 12th last season, playing in a fluid off-loading style but often not travelling too well. New head coach Warren Spragg replaces Paul Arnold, now at Preston Grasshoppers, with Alex Loney as player coach and Brian Ashton remaining as consultant. They may adopt a more pragmatic approach with some experienced players leaving.

Out: Paul Arnold (lock, Vale of Lune), Jordan Dorrington (wing, Vale of Lune), Simon Griffiths (prop, (Sale FC), Scott Armstrong (centre, Kirkby Lonsdale), Nick Gray (lock, Caldy), Matt Lamprey (No.8, (Macclesfield).

In: Tom Grimes (wing, Blaydon), Ollie Parkinson (lock, Macclesfield), Mark Irving (prop, Italy), Henry Hadfield (wing, Tynedale), Adam McCarthy  (flanker, Bath University), Harlin Corrie (lock, Penrith), Ben Gregory (hooker), Matthew Ellis (No.8),Luke Woodward (prop).

Main retentions: Chris Briers (centre), Adam Lewis (prop), Ben Vernon (flanker), Connor Wilkinson (centre),  Greg Nichols (scrum-half), David Fairbrother (No.8), Greg Smith (dly-half), Tom Carleton (wing), James Bailey (wing), Tom Burtonwood (hooker), Nick Ashcroft (lock), George Brookes (full-back), Jamie Brookes (flanker), Matt Garrod (lock), Adam Joyner (prop), Karl Capstick (lock), Jake Foster (scrum-half), Ralph Dowds (centre), Sam Simpson (prop).


Hull Ionians

Finished 13th last season. They have a new director of rugby in Martyn Wood with Alex Crockett as head coach, and thy have close links with Yorkshire) Carnegie. Good local signings balance the loss of some key players.

Out: Laurence Cowen (flanker, (Birmingham Moseley), Callum Irvine (fly-half, Yorkshire Carnegie), Aquille Smith (wing, Hartpury RFC), Darren Oliver (lock, Chinnor), George Oliver (flanker, Chinnor),  Taylor Prell (full-back, Warrington).

In: Chris Bell (fly-half, Huddersfield),Will Dennis (prop, Harrogate), Ben Bell (prop, Sandal), Mike Bradshaw (prop, Wharfedale), James Tincknell (wing, Wharfedale), Tom O’Donnell (flanker, Otley),  Jay Heath (fly-half, Coventry), Ed Falkingham (lock, Doncaster Knights).

Main retentions (full list not released): Sam Wilson (wing), Isaac Green (scrum-half).


Loughborough Students

After a poor start they recovered to finish 11th last season with a squad boosted by players from Leicester Tigers. Alan Buzza has taken over as director of rugby from Dave Morris, who has gone to London Scottish, with Brett Deacon of Leicester Tigers as National League team coach assisted by scrum coach Boris Stankovich which suggests closer links with Tigers.

Out: Jonah Boyce (prop,  Birmingham Moseley), Sam Pointon (fly-half, Birmingham Moseley), James Lasis (lock, Rotherham), Josh Sharp (fly-half, Ampthill), Yiannis Loizias (wing, Rotherham),Mark Dixon (fly-half, Caldy), Matt MacPherson (lock, Rosslyn Park), Benjo Marfo (back, (Rosslyn Park), Simon Pitfield (lock, Ampthill).

In: Seb Brownhill (prop, Bishop’s Stortforf), Cal Watson (wing), George Davis (prop), Sam Hudson (flanker), Sam Roberts (wing), Owen Hills (prop), Jarod Leat (hooker).

Main retentions: Tom Stapley (back), Owen Waters (centre), Luke Frost (lock, back row), Theo Vukasinovic (lock), Henry Wheaton (lock, back row), Andy Boyce (flanker), Ollie Adams (prop), Harry Nuttall (back row), Charlie Kingham (lock, flanker).


Old Albanian

Ninth last season. Director of rugby is Bruce Millar with Gavin Hogg, coming from Bury St Edmunds, as new head coach. Links with Saracens which will help them.

Out: Matt Miles (hooker), Harry Bate (flanker), James Shanahan (fly-half), Hayden King (prop, all to Blackheath), Ben Palmer (fly-half, Coventry), James Pritchard (full-back), Josh Taylor (hooker), Karl Garside (prop, all to Ampthill), Al Gliksten (centre, Chinnor).

In: Sean Raffell (back row), Andy Christie (back row, both Saracens, DR), Ross Parsons (scrum-half, (France), Tom Bednall (fly-half, UCT South Africa), Danny Hartwell (No.8).

Main retentions: Craig Dowsett (full-back), Jack Daly (scrum-half), Alex Boggis (prop), Ross Hamilton (lock), Sam Lunnon (lock, back row), Morgan Thompson (scrum-half), Ollie Walliaker (prop), Dan Watt (fly-half), George Elliott (wing, full-back).


Old Elthamians

Won their fifth promotion in eight years at the end of last season after beating Sale FC in the National League Two play-off. Director of rugby is Gavin Lach, with head coach Sam Howard supported by coaches Aaron Liffchak and Mark Barratt. They are based at Eltham College, close to Blackheath’s ground at Eltham, and have ambitious plans for expansion. They have an experienced side with players coming in mainly from other London sides, including London Welsh. They have retained the majority of last season’s team and could be the surprise package.

In: Adam Worth (wing, Dorking), Joe Carlisle (fly-half, London Welsh), Kieran Moffatt (centre).

Main retentions: Dom Lespierre (wing), Cam Roberts (wing), Will Luxford (scrum-half), Tom White (full-back), Truman Sullivan (flanker), Mike Denbee (No.8), Max Wilkins (centre), George Messum (lock, back row), Adam Preocanin (lock), Will Robinson (full-back), Renford Bennett (centre0, Chris Surman (fly-half0, Ryan Munnelly (flanker), Jon Fordham (hooker), Rob White (centre), George Emmerson (full-back), Bryan Hotstone (full-back), Ali Neden (back), Ollie Claxton 99scrum-half), James Golledge (centre), Lewis Brown (prop), Sam Egerton (scrum-half).


Plymouth Albion

An excellent run saw them finish second last season and mark themselves favourites for promotion this time. Head coach is Kieran Hallett, working with coaches Julian Salvi and James Earp, and they have good links with Premiership champions Exeter Chiefs, with at least six dual registered or loan players.

Out: Tom Cowan-Dickie (hooker, Cornish Pirates), Nile Dacres (lock, Coventry), Sam Nixon (prop, (Bath Academy), Robert Cooper (flanker, Cornish Pirates), Tom Heard (prop, Hartpury RFC), Robert Langley (flanker, Hartpury RFC), Sam Matavesi (wing, Redruth).

In: Jack Arnott (wing, Cornish Pirates), Jordan Gott (full-back, St Ives), Luke Chapman (prop, Cornish Pirates), Eoghan Grace (flanker, Coventry), Dan Mugford (fly-half, Sale Sharks), Ted Landray (centre,  Exeter University), John Kelly (lock, Luctonians), Dan Swain (lock, Exmouth), Tom Henrickson (centre), Jack Innard (hooker), Marcus Street (prop), Sean Lonsdale (lock), Joe Snow  (scrum-half), Harvey Skinner (fly-half, all Exeter Chiefs, DR).

Main retentions: Matt Shepherd (full-back), Robin Wedlake (wing), George Mills (back row), Rupert Freestone (hooker), Seta Raumakita (wing), Matt Crosscombe (wing), Cameron Setter (scrum-half), Kieran Hallett (fly-half), Herbie Stupple (No.8), Sam Daly (lock), Dean Squire (centre), Dan Powell (full-back), Todd Prisk (lock), Dan Collier (lock), Will Norton (prop), Jamie Salter (hooker), John Dawe (wing), Ed Holmes (flanker).


Rosslyn Park

Ended up sixth last season after another poor start. Managing director Shaun Justice has departed after three years for personal reasons, while former player-coach Scott Sneddon has moved to Hong Kong. New head coach is Kieran Power. Have forged closer links with London Irish as well as with Harlequins.

Out: Ed Milne (No. 8, London Scottish), Mark Lilley (prop, retired), James Inglis (lock), Scott Sneddon (fly-half), Harry Broadbent (back row), Dave Vincent (wing), Mark Kohler (wing, Bury St Edmunds).

In: Jacob Atkins (fly-half, London Irish, loan), Mike Macfarlane (No.8, Ealing), Matt MacPherson (lock, Loughborough Student), Karl Gibson (hooker, Ealing),Alfie Dudman-Jones (wing, Manchester University), Ollie Smith (prop, Redingensians), Benjo Marfo (wing, Loughborough Students), Jack Cooke (back), Olly Millner (back), Sam Gratton (forward).

Main retentions: Adam Bellamy (hooker), Will Crow (scrum-half), Hugo Ellis (No.8), Jamie Gray (lock), Oli Grove (centre), Andrew Henderson (back), Harry Hudson (flanker), Russell Weir (scrum-half), Harry Leonard (fly-half), Maurice Nwakor (prop), Henry Robinson (full-back), Henry Spencer (No.8),  Paul Spivey (lock), Frank Taggart (flanker), Ali Wade (hooker), Rhys Crane (back), Rory Martyn-Smith (flanker), Jack Gash (scrum-half), Dan Barnes (fly-half), Nathan Thomas (flanker), Rory Brand (scrum-half), Stewart Maguire (prop).