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20 Questions: Rhys Oakley – Hartpury College

How about that for a start to the season?

It’s been very good. There’s a great bunch of players at Hartpury and everything has gone great for us so far.

How tough was your latest win in Plymouth before Christmas?

It was by far our toughest game of the season. From my experience, it was as good as any Championship game in terms of physicality.

They must have played well to keep you scoreless in the second half?

They did and we were disappointed with some parts of our game but we have to give them credit for pushing us hard.

Lost your perfect record this season that day, too?

We’re not thinking too much about it but it would’ve been nice to go into the Christmas with a perfect 80 points after 16 games. But we’re still unbeaten and that’s some achievement.

Did you expect to start the season that well?

We played well last year but we had mental switch-offs which cost us. We’ve eradicated that this year and we also know each other more.

When did you start looking at the table?

We never really spoke about it. We never set a target as such. All we wanted was to win every game we were going into and that’s how we’re going to keep doing once the season restarts.

What about that 64-5 against Birmingham Moseley a few weeks back?

A lot was written about that with them coming down from the Championship. To be fair we started the game really well and did very little wrong after that.

What are you most pleased about performance wise?

Our defence has been exceptional. We’re not giving teams a chance to get into the game by keeping our penalty count down.

What about your attack and its 723 points in 16 games?

We’ve got some very good running backs and once the team give us the ball back they enjoy having a go. Our forwards are working hard to make sure we’re delivering them good ball.

Any player standing out?

It’s been a really good team effort and it’s really hard to pick anyone out to be honest. Every player slots in and out of the team and that’s a big positive. We can make eight changes one week and it still runs like clockwork.

Can you get promoted to the Championship?

I haven’t heard anything to suggest we can’t. We’ll just try to keep approaching games in the same way, and that’s to win each one.

How many students are involved?

They’ve got the BUCS Super League on Wednesdays but some of them are doubling up and playing Saturdays. We also have academy lads from Gloucester, Bath or Bristol. But, as I said, every time they come in they’ve just slotted in brilliantly.

What about your season?

I had a nasty injury at the end of the last season and it took me a while to get back physically but I’m all good now and I’m enjoying playing regularly. I’m enjoying winning and captaining a team full of young lads keen to improve.

Involved with the coaching too?

Mark Cornwell is in charge of the forwards but I’m helping out here and there. I’m also involved with the BUCS team and the AASE U18s team.

How many years have you got left?

I’m 36 but I’m not thinking about retiring at all. As long as I remain fit and my body doesn’t tell me to stop I’ll keep playing.

How do you look back at your long career?

I’m been very lucky and played a lot of games at the highest level. That season playing for Northampton was great. I loved playing in France, too, and winning the Championship with Leeds twice and then playing in the Premiership was pretty special.

What about your two Wales Test caps?

I was very young in 2003 but it was an amazing experience and that’s something I can look back on fondly. I played against Ireland and Scotland in the lead-up to the World Cup but didn’t go to Australia which was unfortunate.

Three dinner guests?

Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan and Will Smith.

Best and worst banter at Hartpury?

Jonas Mikalcius is pretty funny but Will Tanner isn’t.

Best and worst dressed?

Worst is George Boulton but Alec Clarey is pretty edgy.

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