London Welsh will travel to Maidenhead for their opening fixture of the Regional 1 South Central campaign.
The Exiles’ successful pre season (in which over 60 players were put through their paces before the performance squad is cut for the league season) ended with a 31-26 victory over the Ealing Trailfinders Academy at Brunel University. In the last pre season fixture Welsh fielded their strongest squad thus far this season with further returns from injury and extended rest, including: star man Australian back row Rohan Pixley, mobile Hooker Jack Burnett and Full Back/Wing Sion Cowdy (who has been away all summer on 7s duty including time with the Welsh National 7s side).
Last season, Maidenhead finished eighth of 14 in the league, scoring 613 and conceding 709 points, finishing with 54 league points.
The Maidens ended the season on good form, winning three of their last five fixtures. Our hosts were promoted to level 5 in the 16/17 season winning winning South West 1 ahead of Newbury Blues.
There followed good seasons in 17/18 and 19/20- on both occasions finishing 3rd and missing the final promotion spot; the latter in 19/20 only losing out under the RFU covid matric.
In February, the club celebrated their 100th birthday, having been founded as Thames Valley Rugby Club, before becoming Maidenhead in 1965.
Welsh also finished last season in good form, winning four of their last five fixtures. Welsh began the 21/22 season with ten straight wins, only to be pulled back by fellow Regional 1 South side Camberley in the latter stages of the season (as a long list of key injuries took their toll).
This Saturday’s fixture will be a three o’clock kick off, and there will be two supporters coaches leaving from Old deer Park: More information will be given this week via social media and the weekly newsletter , so keep your eyes peeled! The trip to Maidenhead will be a double header as Paul Bessent’s Druids 2nd XV also take on Maidenhead 2s in a friendly.
In preparation for the game the Welsh side peaked at the end of pre season and have a relatively clear injury list. England Student and BUCS Premier winner Griff Whitson is avaiablr to return to the pack having missed all of the pre season fixtures, Cowdy and Burnett both returned to action against Ealing and Jack Butler, Gareth Lewis and Paolo Peschisolido return after being rested against Ealing. The squad with though be without Ben West (the former Premiership man is yet to feature this season), Myles Keane (requires surgery following the RAMS match), Ben Watts (quad injury at Ealing), Ewan Gully and Matt Pollen (minor injuries buy a week or so from fitness), Ben Bodinham (who is abroad with work), Ed Couzens (final week of HIA following RAMS match). The longer term injury to Tom Williams (no.8) sees him still some 4 weeks away from match readiness having not featured since early 2022. However, Adam Nixon at 9 does return from surgery and may appear this weekend for the Druids. Tom Baldwin has recovered from the knee injury sustained in the last gane of the 21/22 season and may also feature this weekend.
Welsh will be looking for an equally strong a start to the season as they did on the last. A competitive league may well come down to the wire, come the business end of the season in spring 2023.
There are mouthwatering match ups a plenty in Round 1 with Camberley hosting Wimbledon and Havant making a longer trip to Banbury. It will no doubt prove to be a big opening weekend.
Next weekend, London Welsh will be away again in Round 2 to Royal Wootton Bassett, before playing their first game back at Old Deer Park on the 17th September in Round 3 against Oxford Harlequins.