Bedford Blues kick off new Championship season under the lights at old rivals Coventry

Bedford Blues' new home and away kits for the 2022/2023 season (Image: Bedford Blues)

Friday night brings the start of the latest Championship rugby season, with Bedford Blues kicking off the campaign with a trip to old rivals Coventry.

Looking to avenge an agonising 15-14 defeat at Butts Park Arena last season, the Blues will hope to kick the season off in style by gaining a victory at a venue they haven’t won at since 2008.

There has been plenty of movement at Goldington Road in the off-season, with captain Rich Lane moving permanently to Premiership side, Bristol Bears and vice-captain Joe Atkinson retiring.

Alex Day was announced as the new captain last week

That left a vacancy for the captaincy which has been snapped up by scrum half, Alex Day who will lead the Blues for the first time in a competitive capacity at Coventry on Friday night.

This will be the first of at least four meetings between the two sides this season, with Coventry drawn alongside the Blues in the Championship Cup which begins in the first weekend of November.

The return of Le Bourgeois

Despite some big name departures, Bedford Blues moved quickly to replace them with former Blue Michael Le Bourgeois making a long-awaited return to Goldington Road, and he starts at inside centre on Friday.

Read: Bedford Blues legend Le Bourgeois returns to Goldington Road

Also arriving has been Seán French who joined from Munster in June and still has his best years ahead of him at just 22-years old.

French made his Munster debut in 2020, scoring in a huge win over Zebre and was also part of the Grand Slam winning Irish Under-20 a year earlier; with Mike Rayer already a huge admirer of the winger.

“Perhaps the most impressive thing in talking to him was the fact that he is incredibly determined and aspirational to get back to playing at the very highest level.

“I’m convinced he will be setting great standards to those around him and drive the team to achieve great things”, said Rayer in June.

Sean French (Image: Bedford Blues)

A relatively short pre-season campaign has been promising with an expected thumping victory over Rotherham Titans followed by a narrow loss to Northampton Saints in which many positives were garnered.

New look Blues squad

Prop Monty Royston, openside flanker Charles Rylands and Jac Arthur – who has signed from local rivals Ampthill – are among the other new signings in a refreshed Blues squad.

Bedford welcome tighthead prop George Kloska and back row forward Aaron Tull into the squad for tomorrow night’s game; Bristol Bears loaning the pair with a shortage of forwards for the Blues.

Will Maisey returns from a long-term injury at fly-half while James Little and Ollie Newman return for a brief time from Ealing to assist with a growing injury list for Bedford.

Beginning his 18th campaign in charge of Bedford Blues, Director of Rugby Mike Rayer thanked both Ealing and Bristol for the loans.

“We’re indebted to Ben Ward and Pat Lam for their assistance this week going into our first game. Preparation has been pretty good all things considered and the lads are really looking forward to tomorrow evening.”

You can still buy tickets for the encounter at Butts Park Arena, which begins at 19:45 on Friday night. Tickets can be purchased here.