The fixtures for the upcoming Greene King IPA Championship season were announced this afternoon with a full programme returning following the coronavirus pandemic.
The first of Bedford Blues’ free weeks is on the first weekend of the season on 15th September, with their first fixture coming the week after; a tough trip to the Stade Santander International to face Jersey Reds.
The Blues’ first home game is another difficult test against Doncaster Knights in the first weekend of October; Steve Boden’s side finishing third in last season’s shortened campaign.
Then the first instalment of the Battle of Bedfordshire reignites the weekend after with Mike Rayer’s side facing Ampthill at Dillingham Park.
Play-off runners-up Ealing Trailfinders are among the favourites for promotion this season, with the Blues hosting the challengers on the first weekend of November, and the return trip in February 2022.
Jersey are the visitors to Goldington Road on what is usually a raucous atmosphere at Goldington Road on Boxing Day, with the return Doncaster fixture following on New Year’s Day.
With restrictions now lifted on sporting events around the UK, Bedford will be hoping to return to full matchday crowds, cheering on the Blues from the stands.
This season will also see Mike Rayer take charge of his 500th competitive match in charge of the Blues on the last day of the regular season at London Scottish.
The Scottish return to the league after being the only side to turn down the Government’s Sport Winter Survival Package at the height of the pandemic last time out.
Meanwhile, the acquisitions keep rolling in, especially in the Bedford forward line with two props signed to bolster an already strong looking front row.
22-year old Osman Dimen signed at the beginning of the week; the young forward scoring ten caps in the National One division before the pandemic curtailed his season in 2020.
The week’s second signing was announced this afternoon (Thursday) as young Irish prop Josh Conway joins from UL Bohemians in the All-Ireland League, following appearances at the Under-20 Six Nations and World Championships.
Head Coach, Alex Rae said: “Joey arrives with a bit of pedigree having come through the Munster system.
“His pathway in rugby probably didn’t go the way he would have liked, going back to club rugby in Ireland, but he captained the side from a young age which shows his leadership qualities.”