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Champions Trophy semi-final: 1st XV captain Theo Johnson talks to HSC

By Josh Bartholomew

Ahead of the 1st XV’s national semi-final on Wednesday, HSC caught up with the team’s captain: talismanic prop, Theo Johnson.

How has the season gone so far?

It’s gone pretty well so far. We are currently unbeaten at home, despite the 12-12 draw against Berkhamsted last weekend, which was mainly due to quite a few injuries. We’ve only lost once in our block fixtures, to Cranleigh, who are very good this season and had two England players.

How excited are you for the semi-final?

I’m extremely excited. Sadly, I won’t be back, but I’ll be there watching – I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to go to the home of rugby (away from Hanworth Road!). I’ll definitely be watching, and I enjoy seeing the guys play!

Where do you think the semi-final will be decided?

I think that it’ll be the depth of the squad which will edge the match. We’re quite blessed with one of the best 2nd XVs in the country, so we’ve got a really good bench. You’d think that they’d have one too, but we’re not too sure how many players on scholarships they have (each team can only play three imported players). 

What are the 1st XV’s strengths?

Historically, Hampton’s side have been characterised by brutal defence. There haven’t been many opposition line-breaks against us. We have what Mr Thomson describes as the ‘Hampton brand of Rugby’. We play to our strengths, playing quick, exciting, offloading rugby that’s fun to watch.

Hampton pride themselves on their open-brand of rugby

How much of a privilege will it be to play at the home of the sport?

It’ll be a massive privilege to play where William Webb-Ellis first picked up his football. I’m told it’s a lovely school.

What are Rugby’s strengths?

They have a pretty good backrow. They have two international captains – one from Scotland and one from England. They’re the noteworthy players.

Who are Hampton’s key players?

The academy players will be vital: the two centres Jesper Hartikainen and Tim Lamming; Rupert Reddish has recently been called back by London Irish and Iestyn Humphrey recently played a trial game for Quins – they’re two of our devastating ball carriers. Steering the ship from fly-half will be Jamie Benson, who’ll be pretty influential for the game. 

Fly-half Benson will guide the team

What are the added challenges of playing away?

Given where we’re playing and the history of the site, it’ll be more of a challenge than most away teams. Of course, there’s the added hype and intensity; the travel will also be pretty hefty, which might take a little bit of a toll, but I think we’ll manage it.

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