Knight rides in for new era at Havant

Graham Butterworth has left Havant for Portsmouth

Graham Butterworth has left Havant for Portsmouth

Havant coach Will Knight. Picture: Mick Young

Havant to approach final games as cup finals

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Havant begin their National Three London & south east campaign under new director of rugby Will Knight by hosting Tring at Hooks Lane (3pm).

Club stalwart Knight was asked to take over during the summer when Adam King decided to step down – and he is relishing the challenge.

Ravaged by injuries, Havant spent most of last season in a desperate battle against relegation before finally securing their National League status in the closing weeks.

Knight is hoping to avoid a repeat of those problems but is realistic enough to know that life will still be tough at this level.

‘I’m looking for-ward to what will be a huge challenge,’ said Knight.

‘The club worked hard to survive at this level but it is still very much a league of “haves” and “have nots” financially.

‘Some of the clubs are very affluent and that makes a big difference.

‘We must look to our strengths which is very much bringing our own talent up through our Academy and supplementing it by bringing in the right quality where we can.

‘Last year, a number of our youngsters were thrown in at the deep end but did very well.

‘Strength in depth was something the club didn’t have and our injury situation was extraordinary.

‘We have a lot of talent at the club and those involved last season will have benefited a lot from the experience.

‘They are one season further down the line and, hopefully, we can achieve a greater balance when bringing more youngsters through.’

Havant have attracted new players in the form of Wes Westaway, formerly a number eight at Exeter Chiefs Academy, centre Darren Bamford, who has been playing rugby league with the Seahawks, back-row forward Nick Goodger (Bedwas in Welsh Premiership), Jim White (Loughborough University), Charlie Craig (US Portsmouth) and Ben Prior, from Portsmouth University.

Some familiar faces will be missing, though, as Gavin Hart has joined Bournemouth for family reasons, Steve Cruddas has moved to Brighton, Graham Butterworth has stepped down to play at Portsmouth and recently-married Graeme Frith is considering his options.

Tring will present a formidable opener for Knight and his team, having completed the double over the south coast side last season.

‘Tring are always well-drilled and powerful up front so it will be a significant challenge,’ said Knight.

‘Our primary target is again to consolidate our National League status and, at the moment, we are about building a foundation for the future.’

Havant: Jaryd Robinson, Jed Rogers, Loz Blackburn, Grant Morris, Josh Blackburn, Joel Knight, Liam Davenport, Sam Cutting, Rob Elsmore, Luke Marks, Luke Osborne, Dan Roberts, Luke Barfoot, Tommy Horn, Wes Westaway, Richard Burgess-Kelly, Danny Butler, Jake Reynolds.

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