Bill Beaumont County Championship Division 2 (Pool 2)
Match preview by Richard V Isaacs



Hampshire are targeting a third successive trip to Twickenham as they embark on their County Championship campaign with a difficult home game against North Midlands at Gosport and Fareham on Saturday.


Having won the Championship Shield in 2016 and been beaten in the Division 2 final by Leicestershire last year, the senior County XV are hungry for more success and hope to get their season off to a winning start at the weekend against the side they scored ten tries twelve months ago.


Interest has been high in the County set-up, despite the long and often tough season the players have endured but head coach Ian Chandler is confident that his side can follow up their recent successes once again.


"We have been really pleased with the amount of interest the County XV has had over the course of the season, with loads of calls from players wanting to be involved.  Having been to Twickenham twice in successive years, we hope that we can do it all again and go one better."


There is a generally familiar look to the team with seven players in the starting XV having collected more than five caps for the county, although the side will be led by Bournemouth's back-row Joe Rees, who takes over the reigns from the successful Gosport and Fareham scrum-half Wesley Dugan.


Ten players in the squad of 22 are likely to make their debuts on Saturday, including Tottonians' hooker Liam Murphy and Havant's former Locksheath Pumas player Mitch Goldring.  Grant Hancox of Bournemouth and Sutton and Epsom's Jacob Knight are also in line for their first call-ups, as it George Primett, who travels down from Henley Hawks.


North Midlands travel to Hampshire for the first time in the County Championship but will be without players from Droitwich, Dudley Kingswinford, Bromsgrove and Newport, who are still involved in National Finals, league play-offs or local Cup Finals.


The game at Gosport and Fareham kicks off at 3pm and entrance is free for all.


HAMPSHIRE SQUAD: Grant Hancox (Bournemouth), Wayne Dugan (Gosport and Fareham), Jake Caddy (University of Portsmouth), Robbie Searle (Tottonians), Joel Knight (Havant), Curtis Barnes (Portsmouth), Jacob Knight (Sutton and Epsom), Wesley Dugan (Gosport and Fareham), Harry Dolbear (Tottonians); Alex Hibdidge (Andover), Armandus Morgan (Havant), Jerome Trail (Havant), Liam Murphy (Tottonians), George Primett (Henley Hawks), Luca Firetto (Bournemouth), Harrison Young (Havant), Mitch Goldring (Havant), Richard Janes (Havant), Joe Rees (capt - Bournemouth), Kemp Price (Worthing Raiders), Liam Perkins (Worthing Raiders), Joe Davis (Havant).

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