Bedford Blues continue to build for the next campaign

Bedford Blues director of rugby Mike Rayer
Bedford Blues director of rugby Mike Rayer

The construction process at Goldington Road continued this week with the signing of a Scotland U20 hooker as well as new deals for seven current squad members.

With just one game remaining in the Greene King IPA Championship, Bedford Blues have already secured the services of 20 players for next season after agreeing a deal with Wasps hooker Sam James as well as props Phil Boulton, Camilo Parilli-Ocampo and James Currie, second rower Mike Howard, back rower Justin Blanchet, and centres Ollie Dodge and Henry Staff.

James, who has spent time on loan at Bishop’s Stortford, played for England at U17 and U18 levels, Hertfordshire at U14 to U16 levels and was a member of the Saracens Elite Player Development Group.

The 20-year-old, who qualifies to play for Scotland through his maternal grandmother, made his international debut for Scotland U20 against Ireland in Athlone in January 2014 and scored his first international points with a try against England at Netherdale the following week.

Boulton, Parilli-Ocampo and Currie have helped the Blues put together an impressive front row which has rarely backed down from any opponents this season.

Howard has been a mainstay of the Bedford second row ever since he joined the club in 2008, while Blanchet has been an impressive addition to the squad since joining from Exeter Chiefs last year and will play alongside his brother Sam next season.

Dodge is one of the longest serving members of the Blues squad having originally joined the club on loan in 2006 before making his move permanent two years later.

The centre-come-winger represented England at U19 and U20 levels. Staff is in his second stint with the club having previously joined from Saracens in 2011 before heading to Rosslyn Park in 2013. A year later the former Bedford Modern schoolboy and Ampthill Colt returned to Goldington Road where he has again impressed.

Speaking about the continuing squad growth, Blues director of rugby Mike Rayer said: “To be in a position where 20 players are in place for next season is a real positive position to be in and a sign that things are moving in the right direction.

“Sam James is an impressive young hooker who has been in excellent form for Scotland U20s as well as the Wasps Academy and Bishop’s Stortford. He has a reputation for his scrummaging and strong work rate and will be a welcome addition to the squad.

“It is also great to have seven other lads agreeing new deals with the club. The impact of Phil, Camilo, James, Phil and Justin has been superb while Ollie and Henry have continued to give their all for the club whenever they pull on a Blues shirt.

“We still have some negotiations going on behind the scenes, however I’m very pleased with how things stand at the moment and the real credit must go to the chairman for the support he continues to give the club in being able to put a competitive squad together.”