Happy New Year and all of those good things! Welsh are straight back into action this weekend with a trip to the coast and Havant RFC.
Welsh are winless in 2 Rounds having lost in terrible conditions in Round 14 to league leaders Wimbledon, and going down away to Oxford Quins in Round 13; both fixtures seeing a host of regulars missing through unavailability and injury.
Havant have conceded only 69 points at Hooks Lane (at home) all season, the best tally in the league. They have also scored the second highest number of points away from home. Havant were founded in 1951 and following the onset of the professional game and league structure have largely exchanged leagues between level 5 and level 6 (London 1 South and the now Regional 1 – the old National 3). In recent years, Havant were relegated from National 3 following the 2011/12 season but fought back over the following 10 years to regain their lace at level 5 by winning London 1 South in the covid impacted 19/20 season. Havant made a good start in their return to level 5 last term, finishing 5th in the league. Level 5 is the highest that Havant has reached in the league pyramid.
In the new format for the 2022/23 the exiles are already over half way through the season, there are only 8 remaining fixtures in the 22/23 season! Welsh ended 2022 sitting sixth in the league on 28 points, boasting 5 wins, a draw and 8 losses at the start of their first season in Regional 1. Havant sit third in the table and are part way through a good season, having lost only 3 games thus far: the losses coming away at league challengers Camberley at home to League leaders Wimbledon and away at Brighton in Round 3.
In some sporting trivia: Welsh have played Havant 9 times in total (including the Round 5 fixture this season at Old Deer Park). Welsh have won 7 of those fixtures, losing only 2. The first meeting of the sides was way back on 12 January 1991 at the Hooks – Welsh winning 17-9 with tries from Owen Robins, Mike Dawes and Nick Jenkins. Almost 32 years on to the day from that first fixture, Welsh return to the Hooks this weekend for the 10th meeting of the sides. The last trip to The Hooks for the exiles was during the 1996/97 season, a National 3 fixture that the home side won 38-26.
The Round 5 fixture this season was a cracker, a game that Welsh came away from scratching their heads as to how they lost it! Welsh led the match 21-7 with 35 minutes on the clock, looking comfortable. However, in the second half Havant clawed their way back into the match and ended in impressive fashion to take the win 31 to Welsh’s 26.
It is almost a month since our hosts last took to the field, the weather taking its toll on the fixture list. In Round 13 Havant beat Brighton 41-23 at Hooks Lane.
In team news: The squad is bolstered by the festive break and chance for an injury ravaged side to regroup. There are returns from injury for Wales u21 Ben Davies in the back row and Wales u18 Rhys Howells in the centre. There is also an early return for scrum half James Smith, the 9 having fractured his Shoulder earlier in the season. Welsh Premiership experienced Ewan Gully also returns in the centre to compete for selection. The exiles are waiting on training and assessment this week for Griff Whitson and Myles Keane, who both missed Round 14 through injury.
In big selection news: The club is delighted to confirm the return of last seasons top try scorer Tom Hunt. Tom moved to Dorking RFC in National 2 at the beginning of the season, moving to Dorking for work. Tom has made 6 appearances at Nat 2 this season scoring twice. However, work brings Tom back to London permanently and thus back home to Welsh, we are delighted and he comes back in for immediate selection contention.
The news is less encouraging for the longer term injury list: Tololima Savaiinaea remains out (Disclosed Shoulder), Jack Anderson continues his rehab from a dislocated knee and following his operation in October (his return is likely to be the first half of 2023/24 season). Jack Burnett is returning to close to match fitness and the hooker is expected to return in the coming weeks.
Sam Johnson, Andy Black and Tommy Williams are unavailable for Round 15.
Match Day arrangements: As we have become accustomed this season, there are problems with strike action this weekend. Thus, as ever, we advise all of the London Welsh family to plan their journey in good time. Havant have informed us that parking at Hooks Lane is limited and provided the attached details for how best to access the ground on match day and best routes for travel.
We hope to see as many of the London Welsh family with us as possible to kick off 2023 with a strong showing. The London Welsh supporters club can be contacted for details of the official supporters bus to Havant this weekend. If you would like a place on the Supporters Bus then please contact Rhiannon Williams at email@example.com or book via the London Welsh Supporters Club tab in the shop down menu of the website.
London Welsh are next at home at Old Deer Park in Round 16 on 14 January with the return leg against Sutton & Epsom – Match Day Lunch on the 14th can be booked here: https://www.londonwelshrfc.com/events-list/