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RUGBY UNION: Quins bank on pack power
Season preview - National 3 South West
OXFORD Harlequins manager Steve Chadbone said their pack had never been so strong as they head into the new season.
Quins only avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth last April, but they believe forward power and some talented youngsters will stand them in better stead this time.
“The forwards are as strong as they have ever been,” said Chadbone.
“The guys are fit enough and have been doing everything right, so we’ll see how we go.”
Quins, who will be led by director of rugby Tevita Vaikona, got off to a terrible start in 2011-12 and are determined to hit the ground running this time.
“We are trying to put everything right that was totally wrong last year,” said Chadbone.
“There is a lot more depth with the squad we now have.
“Tevita has brought a lot of the younger guys through to train with the senior players.
“It is a big step up, but he is keen for them to take it.”
Quins have signed five players in Jack Briggs, Ben Greenhay, Matt Reeves, Harry Whittington and Alan Johnson, while Geoff Hally, Pete Kelly, Adam Neal, Charlie Ward, Jack Crowe and Ashley Whittington step up from the Oxford Academy .
They have also been boosted by the return of Tonga international flanker Sione Vaiomo’unga.
Quins lost 21-19 to Grove and were hammered 75-14 by Chinnor in friendlies.
But Chadbone was not too worried, stressing: “We were using a lot of youth and development players.
“We will need 45 players this year, so it is important to give people a go.”
Jamie Cope will work alongside Vaikona as forwards coach, with Jamie Lakin assisting the backs.
They will still be playing as Oxford Harlequins as the full merger with the old Oxford club continues to drag on.
Chairman Ron Macdonald said there were still legal issues to deal with, but this should be the final campaign before ‘Oxford Rugby’ officially take the field.
IN: M Reeves (Birmingham & Solihull, back row), H Whittington (Amsterdam, full back), A Johnson (Sheffield Tigers, centre/wing), J Briggs (Alchester, wing), B Greenhay (UWIC, prop), A Neil (lock), C Ward (back row), J Crowe (centre), A Whittington (back row), G Hally (prop), P Kelly (centre) (all ex-Oxford Academy).
OUT: S Steventon (Henley Hawks, prop), M Nutt (Henley Hawks, full back), J Hall (Musselburgh, prop).
LAST SEASON: 11th.
Oxford Harlequins (v Barnstaple, home): H Whittington, Briggs, Sage, Kelly, Cosins, Stevenson, Maspero, Chadbone (capt), Edney, Hally, Forde, Powell, Reeves, Vaiomo’unga, Rees. Reps from Greenhay, Crowe, Ward, Neal.