30 August 2005
Former South Africa captain Bobby Skinstad has reinvented himself to help Richmond launch their Powergen National Trophy bid this weekend.
Skinstad, still only 29, won 34 caps between 1997 and 2003, and led the Springboks 10 times from the back-row.
But he is now lining up at centre for Richmond, who kick off the new-look competition at Staines on Saturday.
"Bobby started pre-season training with us and we're hoping he'll play as many games as possible," said Richmond coach Andy Maren.
"He wants to play in the backs now and from what we've seen he could be a real handful there.
"You can tell why he captained South Africa. He never stops talking and he's a really good influence to have around."
Skinstad, whose brother Andrew plays at full-back for Richmond, joins several other new signings in the former Premiership side like former Orrell prop Luke Mann and Nottingham wing Mark Smith.
But ex-London Irish fly-half Mark Mapletoft is still recovering from a dislocated elbow and former Staines centre JP Redlinghuys broke a hand in pre-season training.
Staines join Richmond's league this season after beating Portsmouth 55-12 to win the Powergen London One play-off.
And they will have Premiership experience of their own to call on in player-coach Chris Sheasby, Nick Greenstock and Steve White-Cooper.
Chingford will attempt to take last season's brilliant unbeaten form into their meeting with London Scottish.
Chingford won the London Three North East league title at a canter, tying up the title six weeks before the end of term before lifting the Essex Cup.
"We're a very young side and London Scottish are two leagues above us, so it is a massive step up," said Chingford coach John Williams.
"But we had our best ever season last year and we're hoping to give them a really hard time."
Williams picks out talented back-row players Olly Hoad and Guy Gavan - who represented England at student and schoolboy levels - as the players to watch.
And both coaches know each other well from their playing days too. Chingford coach Williams used to play at prop and his Scottish namesake Roly on the wing for the Metropolitan Police.
The other ties see four sides hosting sides from higher divisions. Guildford travel to Barnes, Old Colfeians are at Maidstone, Thurrock host Canterbury and Winchester - the lowest level side in terms of league status - host Shelford.
The Powergen National Trophy involves 118 teams from National League One and below in the English Clubs Championship and culminates in a finals day at Twickenham in April.
The Powergen Junior Vase starts with preliminary round ties on September 3 and the Powergen Intermediate Cup kicks off with round one on September 17.
Powergen National Trophy, first round
London & South East ties
Basingstoke v Ealing
Guildford v Barnes
London Scottish v Chingford
Maidstone v Old Colfeians
Norwich v Lewes
Staines v Richmond
Thurrock v Canterbury
Winchester v Shelford
Byes - Tabard, Worthing
Powergen Junior Vase, preliminary round
London & South East ties
British Airways v G.W.R.
Economicals v Northolt
Egham v Overton
Foots Cray v Old Elthamians
Haslemere v Midhurst
Holbrook v St Francis
London Media v Kings Cross Steelers
Loughton v Billericay
Newick v Plumpton
Old Cooperians v Stanford Le Hope
Old Suttonians v Stoneham
Old Williamsonians v Chess Valley
Orpington v Greenwich
Pegasus Palmerians v Watford
Rayleigh Wyverns v Southgate
Teddington v Bec Old Boys
Witham v Millwall