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RUGBY UNION: Burnell picks eight debutants to face Bedford
11:00am Saturday 14th September 2013 in Sport
London Welsh will field eight summer signings against Bedford Blues in their Greene King IPA Championship opener at Allianz Park today (3.15).
Tom May, Will Robinson, Nathan Trevett, Andy Titterrell, Peter Edwards, Rob Andrew, Carl Kirwan and Ollie Stedman, will all start, while Cai Griffiths, Peter Browne, Mitch Lees, Ollie Frost and Dante Mama could make their first competitive appearances from the bench.
In contrast, club captain Matt Corker will make his 185th appearance for the club, while assistant coach Gordon Ross starts at fly half and will be keen to add to his 600 points for Welsh as he makes appearance No 110.
Ross will form part of an experienced half back pairing for the Exiles, with scrum half Rob Lewis.
Winger Joe Ajuwa will be hoping to take his pre-season try scoring form into the Championship, having crossed four times for the Exiles in their friendlies against Chinnor, Scarlets and Henley Hawks.
However, Seb Jewell, Hudson Tonga’uiha, Sonny Parker, Nick Scott, Alex Davies and Richard Thorpe miss out through injury.
“Selection was extremely difficult,” said head coach Justin Burnell. “There were so many players who are capable of starting the game, who haven’t even made the bench.
“That shows the strength we have in depth and those players will certainly get their chance in the next couple of games.”
Burnell added: “We certainly had more positives than negatives come out of our three pre-season games and there’s a fantastic feeling in the camp. “The players now just can’t wait to get the season under way and you could see the difference in the approach and attitude this week.
“Monday was very good, but coming in yesterday morning you could feel a good air of apprehension around the place.
“Nobody is taking anything for granted, but everyone is excited.”
The last time Welsh and Bedford Blues met was in the Exiles’ Championship winning season of 2011/12.
The sides traded home wins during the regular campaign, before crossing swords in the semi-finals, with Welsh coming through over the two legs 30-26 on aggregate.
The sides’ other meeting came in the B&I Cup when the Blues won a thriller at Sunbury, 33-30.
London Welsh: Robinson, Ajuwa, Lewis, May (capt), Stegmann, Ross, R Lewis, Trevett, Titterrell, P Edwards, Andrew, Corker, Browne, Kirwan, Stedman. Reps: Morris, Tideswell, Griffiths, Browne, Lees, Frost, Mama.
Bedford Blues: Pritchard (capt), Dodge, Hircock, Atkinson, N Edwards, Sharp, Veenendaal, Fearn, Clare, Boulton, Howard, Gulliver, Armes, Fox, Vandermolen. Reps: Spurling, Auterac, Cooper, Tupai, Barrell, Baldwin, Le Bourgeois.
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