South West London’s sizeable Cornish community are expected to rally to support Cornish Pirates as they face Richmond Rugby.
The fixture, rescheduled from December, will kick off at 2pm at Richmond Athletic Ground.
Russ Strick, a London Based Pirates Supporter told SWL: “I am expecting the usual large and lively Pirates contingent at the RAG.
“There’s a sizeable Cornish population in South West London – and with London Cornish Pilot Gig Club based in Richmond and London Cornish RFC in Roehampton I’d expect that The Sun Inn will be busy before the game.
“The RAG is a great, traditional ground and there’s always a warm welcome for Pirates supporters – so it’s a popular club to visit.
“Pirates will expect to win this. They have beaten Richmond well home and away in their last two meetings and Pirates are fielding a strong starting line-up with very good ‘finishers’ on the bench.
“Former Pirate, Will Carrick-Smith, will cause problems in the lineout and former Redruth favourite, Mark Bright, is always a handful and often a game-changer so Pirates will need to show the appropriate amount of respect, especially given that Richmond have beaten some strong sides this season.
“I’m expecting a bonus point win for the Cornish.”
Another fan said that such a large contingent of supporters came from South London, they had renamed Croydon ‘Porth Croydon’ – porth is a Cornish word for bay or harbour.
He said: “We expect pasties, pints of Betty Stoggs a good ‘shout’ which means lots of shanty singing!”
Mark Elton, captain of Cornish in London group, Kernow in The City and bard of Gorsedh Kernow, which promotes Cornish culture said: “The Cornish never turn down the opportunity for a ‘shout’ especially after a few beers and Pirates fans are no different!
“We welcome all rugby fans to join us in the bar after the match for choir practice – win or lose.”
Cornish Pirates’ media officer Phil Westren commented: “From a Cornish Pirates perspective, we are always fortunate to have many exile supporters about the country who make the effort to attend our games, as has been the case for many years.
“This is especially noticeable when we play teams in the London area and long may it continue!
That support might be much needed.
Pirates have made sweeping changes to their first XV following their 31-21 away victory against Coventry which left centre Callum Patterson with a dislocated and fractured ankle.
Louie Tonkin, assistant head coach said: “The boys are pretty banged up from last week, so we have tried to keep things consistent.”
Carwyn Penny is full-back, with Tommy Wyatt and Shae Tucker as a fresh centre-pairing and fly half Harry Bazalgette is lined up to make his second start for the team and Alfie Petch swaps places with Sam Rodman in the pack, who is joined on the bench by club captain Nicolas De Battista, wing Alex O’Meara and back row player Antonio Kiri Kiri.
The back row is reshuffled as Caleb Montgomery moves from 8 to 6 and Matt Bolwell from 6 to 7 with Tom Duncan named as 8.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s encounter, Cornish Pirates’ joint head coach Gavin Cattle said: “Richmond can be a dangerous side to play.
“They have a pretty consistent team and where recruitments have been made there are players with considerable Championship experience – and none more so than the evergreen Mark Bright who is a joint top try-scorer in the league this season.”
“During a period when it seems for us every week is a Cup Final, we have to strive to keep winning to stay in touch with the top teams.”
Richmond Head Coach Rob Powell was confident that he has resolved the issues that beset Richmond in the 16th round of the Championship last week: “We’ve worked hard during the week to rectify the areas of our game that let us down against Jersey.
“We know Pirates are another huge challenge, they have a big pack and very sharp backs.
Richmond have made three changes to their starting XV, with James Hadfield at number two and two changes in the backs, as fly-half Ted Landray returns to the number 10, and James Kane switches to the outside centre.
Ben Robbins is on the bench, in line to earn his first cap, along side prop Luke Spring and utility back, Hamish Graham.
Cameron Mitchell, Jack Allcock, Byron Hodge, Kurt Schonert, Henri Williams and Max Trimble are unavailable due to injury.
Tom Soulsby, group marketing and communications manager from Richmond Rugby Club said : “From our point of view it’s a very strong Pirates team but one we’re excited to face.
“They’re normally very physical and like to dominate the set-piece. It’s good to see the return of former Richmond player Callum Sirker as well.
The match is one of three Saturday Championship fixtures, elsewhere Doncaster Knights will face Bedford Blues, and Hartpury will go up against Ealing Trialfinders.
London Cornish Rugby Club will face Battersea Ironsides on their home turf at Garratt Green in a rearranged London 1 South fixture, kicking off on Saturday 5 February at 1pm.