Skipper Boatman to steer West Hartlepool

Dan Boatman

Dan Boatman

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WEST Hartlepool are back for pre-season training under their new coaching regime of Iain Dixon and Jonny Boatman.

But while it is all change at the top with director of rugby Kevan Oliphant and previous head coach Tim Sawyer stepping out of the front line, West will still be going forward with the same leader on the pitch.

Dan Boatman will continue as captain after a successful first full season in charge after guiding West to sixth place in the club’s first season back in National Three North.

The 26-year-old back row forward had taken temporary control at the end of the 2010-11 campaign after regular skipper and elder brother, Jonny, broke his leg in the win at Carlisle.

Dan negotiated a short, but tricky, end-of-season run of fixtures to take West over the finishing line as they were crowned North One East champions.

It was no surprise when he was installed as full-time captain last year and no shock now he will lead them into another term.

Dan will have a new right-hand-man – centre Luke Watson.

The former Horden star has been installed as vice-captain, succeeding Gareth Foreman, who has left Brinkburn.

Watson proved an inspired signing in 2009.

While he can play anywhere in the inside backs, scrum-half, stand-off or centre, he has settled in smoothly at centre.

A good organiser, he teamed up with Gavin Robinson for a successful midfield partnership in the North One East title run and last season was a mainstay in the National Three North campaign.

“Luke never shuts up during the game and organises the defence very well,” Dixon said.

“He’s always enthusiastic and upbeat and that’s why we want to give him more responsibility as vice-captain.”

And Oliphant added: “It’s a good combination of Dan and Luke.

“Dan leads by example and the team follow and Luke has great communication skills as well as being a very good player out in the backs.”

However, it is not all good news for West.

They have been hit by two hammer blows on the injury front.

Liam Bailey looks like missing the season with a serious knee problem and Tom Dixon is set to miss out with a thumb injury.

Livewire hooker and player of the year Bailey injured knee ligaments in a training session at the end of last season and is awaiting surgery.

It has left West with only the veteran Andrew Dixon as their only frontline number two so the club are likely to need to bring in a new signing.

West are better placed to cover the absence of Tom Dixon (no relation).

Andrew Davies had an outstanding season in the second row and West have Gareth Eddy and Ben Lloyd who can play alongside him.

Meanwhile, the Brinkburn club are set to let their collective hair down tomorrow at the annual West BeerFest (2pm til late).

Admission is £10, which includes either four beer chits or three lager or wine chits.

There is entertainment from 7pm from bands, Still Misbehavin’ and Hartlepool’s very own Fear of Falling.

West board member Dave Picken said: “We’re hoping for a good day and that the weather is kind as well.

“There are 30 cask ales on sale, plus all the regular stuff, there is a barbecue and bands on.

“But it’s not just about the beer.

“It’s a day all the family can enjoy – from 1pm til 7pm there are loads of things for the kids, assault course, bouncy castle, bucking bronco and other games.”