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New signing Toby Dabell to add competition for Cambridge scrum-half spot

Rian Hamilton in action for Cambridge in their friendly win over Carmarthen Quins. Picture: Richard Marsham
Rian Hamilton in action for Cambridge in their friendly win over Carmarthen Quins. Picture: Richard Marsham

Richie Williams is relishing the battle for the No 9 jersey at Cambridge this season after making the addition of Toby Dabell to the squad.

The 24-year-old scrum-half has moved to the Grantchester Road club having most recently been in the Championship with Richmond.

Dabell was part of the England Counties under-20s set-up when Williams was head coach, helping them to two victories in Georgia.

“I’ve kept in touch with him over the last couple of years,” said the Cambridge director of rugby.

“He has a slightly different profile to what we’ve got at the moment. He is quite a diminutive player. He is a livewire in attack.

“What I also like about him is his control of the forwards as he manages the tempo of the game really well. Between him, Kieran Duffin and Harry Hall, I think you’ve got three really exciting scrum-halves there that can execute three different game-plans.

“We’re pleased to have someone with Championship experience join us this season.”

Dabell played for Hartpury College while at university, representing their team in National League One and, on completing his studies and moving back to London, appeared for Richmond.

Duffin has made the No 9 shirt his own over recent seasons, and Williams is predicting that he will thrive on the competition.

“I think Kieran has always responded when we’ve had other No 9s at the club pushing him, so it was something that we were conscious of this season; not going into the season just having Kieran and Harry Hall, a young scrum-half,” said the coach.

“We wanted someone like Toby to come in and push Kieran and help with Harry’s development as well. I think the three of them complement each other really well. I think Toby is a genuine threat around the breakdown, his distribution is strong, he has a good kicking game, and I think the three of them will certainly help how we want to play this season.”

Hall was a product of the mini and youth system at Cambridge, and went to Northampton Saints academy.

He was on a rugby scholarship at Ipswich School for the last two years, and finished last season at Bury St Edmunds in National League Two, making a couple of appearances.

“He is 18 and an exciting prospect,” said Williams. “I think he is probably a mix of Toby and Kieran – he’s an exciting runner and probably needs to develop his awareness which will come over time.

“I think it is another success story as he has been developed throughout the club by the mini and junior age group coaches. He is someone we want to keep an eye on this season, in addition to Toby and Kieran.”

Cambridge defeated Carmarthen Quins 33-14 in a pre-season friendly last Saturday.

They made a bright start with ball in hand for new boy Dan Brough to touch down in the corner after seven minutes.

But a breakaway converted try from halfway by Rhodri Jones saw Quins lead 7-5 at half time.

A sniping run by Jones helped the visitors to extend their lead in the 50th minute but, as the game wore on, fitness started to tell.

Cambridge emptied their bench, and two minutes later Kieran Frost touched down following a move started by winger Rian Hamilton.

More work hitting the line resulted in Matt Dawson touching down Cambridge’s third try.

Another newcomer this summer, Seb Brownhill, got the fourth try after peeling off the back of a driving maul.

A catch and drive from a line-out saw last season’s top scorer Ben Brownlie complete the win, with Stef James adding a fourth conversion.

Cambridge complete their pre-season with a friendly at Nottingham this Friday (August 26).

Shelford were also in pre-season action, earning a 26-19 win over North Walsham, who play a league higher in London & SE Premier.

Shelford host Cambridge II this Friday night at the Davey Field.

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