Ian Thatcher returns to beef up Barnstaple pack
BARNSTAPLE have beefed up their pack by re-signing Ian Thatcher.
The experienced forward will go straight into the second row for what is likely to be physical test at Avonmouth Old Boys on Saturday.
Thatcher, a former Hampshire player, first joined Barnstaple in 2006 and played in the 2009 Devon Senior Cup winning team.
He appeared for the club's Development XV last season before turning out for South Molton in the current Tribute Devon One campaign.
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With Gary Turner and Tom Skelding out through injury and illness respectively, Thatcher has agreed to return to Barnstaple.
Kevin Squire, the director of rugby, knows exactly what he wants from him.
"We have a specific job for him – to scrummage, hit rucks and maul the ball," said Squire."He will be right in the thick of where the boots and fists are flying.
"We're not asking him to carry the ball or receive kicks. He will bring 17 and a half stone of pure brawn and we will use his physicality."
Kele Taofinu'u is likely to make way for Thatcher, having stepped up to the second row to allow James Comber to make his debut at No 8 in the 35-7 win over Amersham and Chiltern in National Three south west on Saturday.
Comber, who joined from Tribute Western Counties (west) side Bude last week, had a fine game and scored a pushover try.
"It was a bit of a nervy day for him but he took everything in his stride," said Squire.
"It's terrific when someone who is the best player in a team is prepared to step up and try a higher level. He didn't look out of place at all."
Squire was relieved to get a bonus point against in-form Chiltern, helped by two penalty tries awarded against their disintegrating scrum.
Barnstaple are now eleven points clear of their ninth-placed opponents.
"The result was very important," said Squire. "If we had lost it would have dragged us back into an uncomfortable situation.
"I was extremely pleased with our forwards but it has to be measured against what they were facing.
"Chiltern's set piece was a shambles but their organisation around the field was brilliant, they knew exactly what they were trying to do.
"Other teams have shown a clinical approach to our weaknesses and we did that to them on Saturday."
Squire admitted "not everything went according to plan".
"We made hard work of it and should have scored a few more tries," he said.
"In the second half we butchered two or three gilt-edged chances, mainly through white-line fever – people being greedy and losing composure. We have to look at that again this week. There is no rush to score a try. If you are patient and play through the phases, the holes will appear."
Ben Vellacott, the scrum half, is unavailable this weekend as he will be on duty for the Exeter Chiefs academy team.
Rob Elliott's performances for the Development XV have put him in contention for a place in the first team's back line.