Ten things you should know about our first PRC opponents…..
- Bedford Rugby Club, which would later become Bedford Blues, was founded in 1886 following the merger of Bedford Rovers (1876) and Bedford Swifts (1882)
- The club’s first match was played on 9th October, 1886, against Olney at Goldington Road and won by Bedford 10-3.
- A total of 41 players have won full international caps whilst contracted to Bedford with 27 playing for England. Three have captained England – David Perry (1965), Budge Rogers (1966) and John Orwin (1989).
- Bedford took on New Zealand on 15th November ,1905, at Goldinton Road. The mighty All Blacks won 41-0 in front of a record attendance of 6,000.
- Bedford have won three major honours, including the 1997/98 Allied Dunbar Premiership 2 and the 2004/05 Powergen Challenge Shield.
- In 2020 Bedford and Premiership side Northampton Saints announced a strategic partnership, allowing the clubs to share players and coaches.
- The Blues boast plenty of players with Premiership experience including former Newcastle centre Joel Matavesi and ex-Saints prop Oisin Heffernan.
- Last season Bedford finished in fourth place in the Championship.
- Bedford Blues Women were formed in June 2020 as part of the club’s development plan with Bedford Junior Blues to have a pathway through from age-grade to Women’s adult rugby.
- Bedford have plenty of experience in the coaches’ box. Director of Rugby Mike Rayer played 367 times for Cardiff, gained 21 international Caps for Wales and also played four times for the Barbarians.
Key men to watch….
The latest member of the Grayson rugby production line (dad Paul played for England while brother James plays for Northampton), Ethan has been part of the Northampton set-up since he was 13 and says he’s the more physical player in the family.
Centre Ethan has represented England at U20s level and joined Bedford Blues on a short-term deal from Saints ahead of the 2023/24 season.
He had spent much of the past three seasons at Goldington Road on dual registration from Saints but had agreed to join London Irish before they were suspended from Gallagher Premiership.
Prop Oisin Heffernan signed a permanent deal with Bedford Blues ahead of the 2023/24 Championship season.
The 28-year-old tighthead has been a familiar face at Goldington Road across the past few years on dual registration from Northampton Saints, making ten appearances and adding two tries.
The Galway-born forward began his rugby journey with Irish province, Leinster and made his debut for the side in November 2016 – featuring on multiple occasions including heavily in the British & Irish Cup.
He joined Nottingham towards the back end of his third year in the Leinster Academy, making 44 appearances for the Green & Whites.
Those performances earnt him his shot at Northampton where he made seven first-team appearances at Franklin’s Gardens.
He also represented Ireland at U20 level from 2013-2015, making 20 appearances and scoring two tries in two U20 World Championship and two U20 Six Nations campaigns.
South African-born centre Jordan Venter joined Bedford from Bath Rugby having found his final season in the West Country hampered by injury problems.
Venter arrived in the UK in 2020 with a big reputation to match his 6ft 1in, 15 plus stone frame, having starred for Paul Roos Gymnasium, his high school in Western Cape, a school that has produced more Springbok rugby players than any other.
The powerful centre was named vice-captain of South Africa’s U18 Sevens team which went on to win the Capricorn Gold Cup in Namibia in early 2020, before becoming the first foreign schoolboy to sign a contract with Scottish Rugby and making the move to Edinburgh.
Venter moved to Bath 12 months later, and featured heavily in the Premiership Rugby Cup before injury.
As part of his recovery, he spent the latter matches of the most recent season on loan at Taunton Titans, helping them to survival in National One on the final day of the season. He also spent a brief loan spell with Ampthill in his only prior Championship experience.