Loughborough Lightning head coach Nathan Smith believes this weekend’s Allianz Cup clash with Gloucester-Hartpury will be a great experience for his side.
The ALPAS Arena encounter on Saturday 23 September (kick-off: 3:00pm) is Lightning’s first competitive match in 16 weeks and sees them come up against last season’s Premier15s champions.
“It was one of the hardest places in the competition that you can go but I think it will be a great experience for the team to go out there and see what it’s all about,” said Smith.
“I expect Gloucester-Hartpury will be in the same situation as us with regards to their internationals. But I know them well and they will have plenty of really good players pushing from beneath and it will be a very, very tough day for us but it’s a challenge we’re looking forward to.”
Lightning have had to negotiate their preseason schedule with more than 20 players absent at different times on international duty. Smith’s side geared up for the Gloucester-Hartpury match by having a joint training session with Worcester Warriors at Epinal Way last week, before travelling down to face Bristol Bears in a behind-closed-doors friendly last Saturday.
Smith said: “It was great to get some game exposure into the players at Bristol. I was really impressed with the energy, effort and endeavour around the park. There was a lot we can improve on but that was to be expected, it was just a good hit out for them.
“The energy and effort of the group was brilliant. We’ve started building the bones of a performance, it was a good start but there’s a long way to go.”Nathan Smith, Loughborough Lightning head coach
Some of Loughborough’s international contingent are expected to be involved against Gloucester-Hartpury but the squad will largely remain the same for another trip to the south-west.
The Allianz Cup match will also be Smith’s first competitive game in charge of Lightning having been appointed head coach in July after spending three years as forwards coach with men’s Championship club Doncaster Knights.
It is his second role at Loughborough, having led the University’s BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) men’s team as head coach between 2018 and 2020.
“I am really enjoying it,” Smith said. “It’s a great challenge, it’s very different to what I’ve done previously. I am very lucky to be working with a set of players who are diligent and want to work hard. It’s easy to come to work when you are working with a group of players like that.”
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