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Simon Watkins and Danny Gross come back for Barnstaple

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 24, 2012

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Barnstaple are welcoming back two of their old boys for the Boxing Day clash with Bideford at Pottington Road.

Centre Danny Gross has not pulled on a Barnstaple shirt for more than four years after sustaining a broken jaw in a game against Torquay Athletic.

Gross is pencilled into the Barnstaple midfield alongside Kiwi Simon Watkins, who is back in north Devon for a Christmas visit.

Watkins played for Barum between 2006-2010, helping them clinch two promotions to reach National Three South West, where they currently play.

Kevin Squire, Barnstaple's director of rugby, reports no major absenteeism due to Christmas commitments and intends to field the best side he can.

Bideford play two divisions below Barnstaple on the league ladder and have not won the Boxing Day clash for more than a decade.

"The league may be what you are judged on, but we don't get 2,000 people or more along to any of those games and we do when we play Bideford," said Squire. "I don't want to be the first Barnstaple coach to lose to them as I imagine the sack would come the following day."

The game should have been played at Bideford this year but has been switched to Barnstaple owing to the state of the King George V pitch.

"Both clubs look forward to the game, and are loathe to call it off, so it made sense to move it to our place," said Squire.

Other Boxing Day matches worth catching include Salcombe against Kingsbridge – another game which draws in the crowds – and the morning kick-off at Crediton, where Okehampton are the visitors.

Brixham's charity game against the Help for Heroes XV (2.30pm) will be particularly poignant this year following the death of club president Danny Irvine two weeks ago.

Irvine, 84, served 32 years in the Royal Navy and was a huge supporter of the game, which raises money for the Armed Forces' charity.

A minute's silence for Irvine will be observed before the game.

Hayle host St Ives in one of Cornwall's traditional festive fixtures, still smarting from an 18-13 defeat by the Hakes in the league on Saturday.

Read more from Torquay Herald Express

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