CORNISH Pirates welcome the Royal Navy to the Mennaye Field tonight (7.30pm), writes Phil Westren.

This fixture replaces the originally arranged Cornish Pirates versus Jersey Reds league fixture, which had to be cancelled following the demise of the Jersey club. 

The Pirates side, to be skippered by flanker Will Gibson, will see debuts for Billy Young (prop) and Harry Hocking (hooker).

Young is a former Saracens Academy member who has played for Canterbury and for Kent, and Hocking, who has made appearances for Redruth this season, is dual registered with Exeter Chiefs.

Frankie Nowell is named at full-back, and Tom Pittman partners Tom Georgiou in the centre. Bruce Houston and Ruaridh Dawson will form the half-back pairing and, for this game, Jack Andrew will be in the second-row engine room alongside Josh King.

There are also six young guest players listed in the Pirates squad, one of whom, Harry Andrewartha, is named on the wing and has featured for Redruth this season.

The other five, who will be keen for opportunities off the bench, are Pirates Amateurs players James Lambourn (prop), Toby Osborne (lock), and Archie Pilcher (back-row), along with Camborne’s Jago Sheppard (lock/back-row) and Will Tanswell (scrum-half).

A special word too for the appointed experienced referee, Tom Foley, who will be warmly welcomed not for the first time, and who was, of course, a leading official at last year’s Rugby World Cup.

Pirates’ coach Murray Westren said: “Firstly, despite our defeat last time out against Ealing Trailfinders, we could feel pleased with how things went in winning five games on the bounce ahead of that contest, and with the players having just had a week off, it has given them a chance to rest bodies, including mentally, and to come back with some energy again.

“Now looking forward to this weekend, Friday nights under lights games are invariably very popular, and we are hopeful of a big crowd for what is amazingly just our second home game in 2024. 

“Naturally, we are especially grateful to the Royal Navy for accepting the fixture following the demise of Jersey Reds.

“It is good for season ticket holders, supporters generally, the hospitality side of things, and for various players, including those keen for game time.

“Among them will be certain players returning from injury, and not forgetting several gifted young guest players who we’ll be welcoming.

“Also, of course, it is handy for the Navy’s squad who in a series of matches will prep towards the build-up to the annual Babcock Trophy contest to be played against the Army at Twickenham in May.”

Cornish Pirates: Frankie Nowell , Robin Wedlake, Tom Georgiou, Tom Pittman, Harry Andrewartha, Bruce Houston, Ruaridh Dawson, Billy Young, Harry Hocking, Marlen Walker, Jack Andrew, Josh King, Harry Dugmore, Will Gibson (capt), Doug Bridge. Replacements: James Lambourn, Jacob Morris, Toby Osborne, Archie Pilcher, Jago Sheppard, John Stevens, Alex Schwarz, Matt McNab, Will Trewin, Ioan Evans, Kyle Moyle, Will Tanswell.

Referee: Tom Foley.