Our 1st XV head into this weeks game against Old Haberdashers knowing that many of them will be able to enjoy a free Saturday and a well earned rest next weekend. The break comes at a good time, we have a number of players either missing through injuries or nursing nagging aches and pains. Again this weekend we have made some enforced changes to the starting XV.
Old Haberdashers RFC was set up by former students of the The Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School in Hertfordshire. Former students include comedians Sasha Baron Cohen (Ali G and Borat) and Matt Lucas (Little Britain)! We have already encountered Old Haberdashers - at the Gravesend RFC preseason tournament in August. They have had a tough start to the season, losing four of their first five games but they should never be underestimated - Old Habs are a great club with a proud tradition and we look forward to welcoming them to Mill Road.
In terms of the 1st XV starters, Joe Reid will be given some time to focus on his coaching responsibilities which means that Joe McMillan returns to his preferred position of loose head prop. McMillan missed the clash with Chingford after dislocating a finger in training last Thursday but his experience, power and stamina will be a welcome addition to the pack. Tom Dales will be taking over the hooker jersey after last weeks starting No.2 Simon Gray took a series of heavy contacts (including one that resulted in an early penalty for us and could have easily been interpreted as a red card). We are hoping to bolster our ranks in the near future with experienced 1st XV hookers Charlie Thorogood and Rhys Hartley making progress with nagging injuries that have kept them out of contention since the start of the season - competition for places is crucial and helps maintain intensity within the squad.
Unfortunately, Rob Pickard sustained a rib injury last weekend so there's an opening at second row. This weekend we are delighted to give young second row Rory Miller his 1st XV debut. As I mentioned last week, Rory has impressed everyone both in training and representing the Ravens - today is the right time to bring him into the fray. Rory was a key member of our Colts side last season and having spent time working with senior coaches and players his game has progressed significantly. Rory is developing his line out skills all the time and his handling, speed and athleticism enable him to make a great contribution to open play.
There is a switch in the half back department; Brett Cutbush moves to fly half and Matt Wadling comes in again at scrum half. This is a combination that we know works effectively. Brett is a great scrum half, but he has the skills, knowledge and ability to cover a number of positions from 9 to 15. The rest of the backline remains unchanged from our visit to Chingford and Lewis Williams retains his place on the bench. Lewis came on early in the second half last weekend and did well on his debut in a highly pressurised game.
This week we also welcome Harrison Pickett back to action. Harrison took a sabbatical last season to focus on boxing, but now he's back and he had a fantastic start to pre-season but his progress was interrupted by an unfortunate injury in training just before our visit to Gravesend RFC. Harrison will add physicality to the team and provide us with even more competition for places in the back row. Our back row is a real strength and Harrison will provide us with another dimension to our game.
Enjoy the game tomorrow, we are determined to get back to winning ways. After a week off our 1st XV will be back in action on 21st October when we pay a visit to Ruislip RFC.
Updated 09:54 - 6 Oct 2017 by Laura Parker