Clevedon's emphasis on youth is beginning to bear fruit, insists Hill
RESULTS may be inconsistent at the moment, but director of rugby Nick Hill believes the potential at South West One West outfit Clevedon is "massive".
Sixteen of the 18 players in last weekend's matchday squad for the 18-10 defeat at Thornbury were products of the North Somerset club's colts.
And Hill is convinced that this faith in youth will be rewarded sooner rather than later as a developing side – sitting comfortably in the middle of the table – gains experience and starts to hit its straps at this testing level.
He said: "People ask why we're not doing so well ... well, we've had a few injuries and a few lads have retired. But we have a tremendous number of youngsters coming through, and within 18 months we will be a very good side.
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"The squad against Thornbury had four of last year's colts, and three from the season before, and it takes time to adjust to this level of senior rugby.
"I believe firmly that there are no quick fixes or short cuts, and that in life anything worth having comes from hard work – and rugby is no different.
"As a coach, this is a more challenging way to go, but the rewards are absolutely massive, and I'm convinced that in 18 months we will be a very good side and the envy of other clubs with a team of local lads that will not have cost us anything."
Next up for Clevedon is a home date with promotion-chasing Old Reds, whose home clash last weekend to Cleve fell victim to the weather.
Reds have announced the same starting line-up, but there's one change on the bench with flanker Scott Coster making a welcome return from a shoulder injury.
Reds, who are keen to avoid fixture congestion in their bid to bounce straight back to the national leagues, were also boosted this week with utility back Craig Owen and lock Mike Kempton reporting back for training following shoulder and arm injuries, respectively.
In National Two South, something must give when tenth-placed Clifton visit second bottom Southend.
The Essex side have lost their last seven games in a row and are already facing a battle to avoid relegation. But Clifton have hit something of a slump themselves, coming off second best in their last six outings. It's a weekend off for Dings Crusaders following the pre-season collapse of Rugby Lions, who withdrew from the league.
National Three South West high-flyers Weston-super-Mare bid to complete the double over Barnstaple, following a comfortable 47-24 victory on home soil early in the campaign. And Avonmouth also face a Devon road trip, to Brixham.
In Western Counties North, second placed Barton Hill have a cross-city trip to Bristol Harlequins, who welcome back several key players.
Leading try-scorer Scott Manning – ten in six games – returns on one wing for his first outing since October because of injury, while Rob Raby, out of senior action since breaking his arm almost three years ago, is back on the other.
There is also a recall for Dave Priddy at full-back. And up front influential former captain James Lewis makes only his fourth appearance of the campaign at lock.