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'Stoke prepare for Hampshire Cup tie
BASINGSTOKE RFC director of rugby James Croker admits that certain players will be rested for Saturday’s Hampshire Cup tie against Winchester.
The ’Stoke boss is likely to make several changes to the side that romped to a 65-7 victory over Beckenham last weekend, with captain Neil Young and centre Freddie Gleadowe among the players expected to be left out.
However, Croker insists that retaining the county title is among his aims for the season and is backing the side he puts out to beat London Three South West outfit Winchester.
“We will rest the players who need to rest,” he said. “There will probably be five or six changes, but it will certainly not be wholesale.
“We need to sure we are prepared for the Sidcup game next week but the guys we bring in will be in the side on merit. This will give them an opportunity to stake their claim and I am looking forward to seeing some of them in action for the first team.
“We will be putting a side out there to win the game because the Hampshire Cup is important to the club historically. We are the holders and there are also a number of marketing benefits that come from being able to say we are the best club in Hampshire.
“It’s important to us as coaches because it’s a break from the league and another target to go for, while it gives the players the opportunity to come up against sides that they would not normally play.”
Both sides go into the game in fine form. ’Stoke have won their last six games to move up to third in the London One South table, a feat matched by Winchester in their league.
“I am not sure what to expect from Winchester,” Croker added. “They are going well in their league so they will be competitive and confident, while there is no expectation on them, so it’s something of a win-win situation.
“We just need to make sure we do what we normally do. We have to play at the tempo we want to play at, work with the same physicality and keep the ball.”
Definitely missing out for Basingstoke will be injured trio Adam Davies, Gareth Kelly and Matt Guilfoyle, while Matt Horne is unavailable.
The winners of Saturday’s match (kick-off 3pm) will host Portsmouth in the quarter-finals of the competition on December 1.