Instonians relishing return to senior rugby
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The Shaw’s Bridge side were relegated from the All Ireland League in 2014 and after a few near misses regained their senior status by beating Bective Rangers in the play-off final. Instonians Director of Rugby Clem Boyd is looking for to the club being back in the senior ranks.
“It’s good to be back,” said the former Ulster prop. “We’re away to Bangor and they have a big day planned, we’ll be using these games to look at players and get ready for the All Ireland League.
“To be back in senior rugby was what the players and club wanted, we dropped down and it was a few tough years, but it is great to be back and we will look forward to the challenges that it brings.
“Recruitment has been good, and it has certainly been made a lot easier when you are a team on the rise and a lot easier that in recent years.”
“It would be nice to go into the All Ireland League on a string of good results and wins would be preferable, but it is just seeing how it all comes together and we won’t really know until we are tested in games.
“We still have a number of guys that are injured, Mark Keane will be out for about six weeks, Robert Whitten is to return, we didn’t have him last year and he should be back before Christmas. We have a number of guys to drip back into the team but there is certainly competition for places.”
Former Ulster prop Schalke van Der Merwe has joined from Lurgan while front rower Anton Lupari and loose forward Andrew McGrath have switched from neighbours Queen’s to bolster the Inst pack while Max Preston returns from England. Behind the forwards scrum half Rhys O’Donnell has signed while Sam Friars returns to the club from England.
Jamie Kirk has joined the Shaw’s Bridge coaching ticket.
Former Ulster lock Tim Barker has joined the Rainey backroom staff as the Hatrick Park club look to bounce back from last season’s relegation in the Division 2B of the AIL.
Aidan McSwiggan rejoins the club for Malone but misses the opener at home to Omagh.
Dungannon host Belfast Harlequins.
In Division One Ballynahinch start the defence of the Stevenson Shield against Ballymena at Eaton Park.
‘Hinch field a strong front row with Peter Cooper Clayton Milligan and John Dickson while former Ulster prop Kyle McCall is on the bench.
New summer signing from Queen’s scrum-half Conor McKee will make his ‘Hinch debut from the bench. For the Braidmen it will be Andy Hughes first game in charge.
Queen’s, runners up last year, start their campaign away at Banbridge. Lock Charlie Irvine and backrow Lorcan McLoughlin start for the students, Curtis Pollock captains the side, David Whitten and Gary Dillon are both unavailable.
Armagh host Malone in the other game.