Havant turn to Knight to plot glory days

Havant skipper Joel  Knight Picture: Mick Young

Havant skipper Joel Knight Picture: Mick Young

Liam Williams sets off from his own 22 to lay on Sean O'Brien's try during the first test of the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour at Eden Park, Auckland

Former Lions forward insists it’s time to get physical

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Rob Matthews believes the appointment of Joel Knight as Havant’s full-time rugby development manager is a big step forward for the Hooks Lane club.

Knight, who has progressed through the club’s junior ranks to captain the senior side, also has the responsibilty of promoting the club in the community.

And as the London one south side prepare to host Cobham tomorrow (3pm), director of rugby Matthews hopes the move will help the club return to the National League ranks in the future.

He said: ‘As a club, we accept that for the past four seasons we have stood still while others have progressed at a rate of knots.

‘We have been looking at what other clubs have done, particularly those who have been able to move back up to National League rugby.

‘A lot of rugby is still run on an amateur basis, with work put in by volunteers who also have their own careers to think about.

‘We want to get more into the local community but a lot of the school, college and university rugby takes place in midweek.

‘That is when people are working and that has made it virtually impossible.

‘Joel will be able to get out with a clear plan on how we can develop as a club.

‘It is not just about the first team but the coaches and managers of the under-eights upwards.

‘Research suggests the average career span of a rugby player is about eight years, so that means we are losing those who start young before they reach the adult game. With someone like Joel involved we can look at things in a fresh way.’

Before setting out on that mission, however, Knight has the more pressing concern of helping his Havant side pick up their first league win of the season.

They have lost all three of their opening games to date and are desperate to get off the mark against Cobham.

It has been a frustrating start, with the team still going through a rebuilding period.

But Matthews is convinced Havant will turn the corner and mount a serious challenge.

‘We have been competitive in all our opening games – against three of the top four sides,’ said Matthews.

‘Last weekend at Chobham we outscored them three tries to one in the second half.

‘If we can put together an 80-minute performance there is no reason why we can’t win this one.’

The home side are once again forced to make a series of changes – one of which sees Nic Benjamin making his debut at scrum-half in place of the unavailable Grant Morris.

Hooker Pete Austin is missing due to his army duties and is likely to be replaced by the returning Lewis Osborne.

Harrison Young and Nick Godger are also in contention for a place in the pack.

In the three-quarters, Havant are boosted by the return of potent finisher Loz Blackburn on the wing.

He will be partnered by his brother Josh on the other wing.

Havant: Martin Smith, Josh Blackburn, Ben Brierley, Joel Knight, Loz Blackburn, Dave Sweeney, Nick Benjamin, Justin Powell, Jack Ward-Golden, Luke Marks, Lewis Osborne, Niall Copeland, Bruce Neill, Nick Godger, Harry Welton, Luke Barfoot, Zaid Ali, Harrison Young

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