Havant RFC Director of Rugby Rob Matthews cannot overestimate how exciting a run in the inaugural Papa Johns Community Cup could be.
The rugby fanatic from Cambridgeshire is licking his lips at the prospect of taking his team to Twickenham for the Papa Johns Community Cup Finals that are taking place on 30 April and across the weekend of May 6 and 7.
Over 500 grassroots clubs in 24 competitions are taking part in the new end-of-season Papa Johns Community Cup, starting this Saturday when Havant travel to Shelford – where Matthews made his County U16s debut.
Some of Matthews’ first-team squad were involved in the Bill Beaumont Division 2 Final between Hampshire and Leicestershire at Rugby HQ in 2017, and they are keen to make it there again.
Matthews said: “The clubhouse is scattered with pictures of our players that played in that County final.
“Playing a game at Twickenham is probably the highlight of most rugby players’ careers.
“We’re fortunate to have a number of Forces players with us that have also played at Twickenham in the Army v Navy games, and they talk so fondly of their memories of playing at Twickenham, and how huge it is for them.
“People sometimes underestimate what it means for rugby players to go and play at Twickenham.”
As well as current Army and Navy stars taking to the field for Havant, there is one rugby-mad family inextricably tied to the Hampshire club.
“We actually have three brothers who play in the first team who all have gone off and experienced different clubs – a few have gone through London Irish academy.
“The eldest brother, Joel [Knight], who has been captain for over 10 years, played at UWIC and played rugby league for Wales Students.
“The middle brother, Jacob, was at Nottingham University and played at Nottingham, while the youngest brother, Reuben, also played at London Irish Academy and was part of Ealing Academy.
“All have come back to play for Havant, where they started their journeys.
“The further family link is that they are all the sons of our Head Coach, Will [Knight] and this is Will’s 50th season of involvement in the club.
“Will was part of the first intake for our minis and junior section and our minis and junior section will celebrate 50 years next year, so there’s a real family element about our club.”
And among preparing for half-century anniversary celebrations, Matthews is hoping the competition will act as a springboard to return stronger at the start of the coming campaign.
Matthews said: “This opportunity is massive for a club to look at where we’ve come over the last season, to do something different, but also to start to prepare for next season and give people that hunger and desire to come back and play next season.
“And if you get it right, you then use it as a social media and a publicity campaign. It’s going to help drive the Havant brand in the local area which will help us recruit and retain players so that we can push on next season to hopefully gain promotion to level four.
“It ticks so many boxes at so many levels. It’s really important to us.”
Featured Image Credit: Mark D @ Windandsurf Images