The National League 1 season may only be eight games old but that hasn’t stopped fans from tipping Cinderford for promotion to the RFU Championship.

The Gloucestershire-based club haven’t quite broken away from the chasing pack, but they have set themselves up for a festive season that should provide plenty of cheer if their form continues. Indeed, after such a barnstorming start to life in League 1, you could say that the foundations are now in place to cement promotion after building up an unassailable lead. However, seasoned rugby union fans will know that it’s rarely that simple.

The truth is that it is certainly a war of attrition over the winter months as the players do battle on the frosty pitches of the Southwest. Furthermore, the biting winter winds that blow off the Atlantic will take no prisoners and care very little for a team’s promotion hopes. In reality, Cinderford’s promotion credentials are still to be tested. But thankfully for the club, they are led by a man who will help the team weather any storms that may come over the winter.

Cinderford’s Rock: Harry Hone

With every passing game, Harry Hone looks more irreplaceable in this Cinderford side. It’s not just his leadership that is so crucial to the current promotion charge but also the key contribution Hone makes with ball in hand. The burly number eight has been a rock in the Cinderford forward pack over the first eight games and has been excellent in helping the team advance up the field with surging ball carries.

Admittedly, this isn’t always a position that gets the most plaudits in rugby union, given how industrious a player needs to be in order to be successful. In other words, the uglier it looks, the better a player is carrying out their duties. It should be said that without this backbreaking toil from the forwards and Hone, in particular, the stage wouldn’t be set for the backs to execute their skills that are easier on the eye.

So, the very fact that Hone is being singled out for his selfless work is a testament to what a talent he is. This can be seen when looking at the National 1 table and noting the impressive defensive record that Cinderford have. Currently, the club is second in terms of points against and well out in front with regards to points scored.

As we can see, Hone’s role in both attack and defence can’t be praised enough as he gets around the pitch and shuts down the opponent before giving skilful offloads to the wingers and backs to do their magic. At this point you may ask, is there anything that this man can’t do? As it turns out, Hone regularly chips in with tries and is no stranger to crossing the whitewash when he spots a gap in the opposition’s defence too.

With all of this being said, it’s not often that the captain of a side is the best player. But when teams do have this rare combination, the entire squad seems to elevate their individual performances. So, without any further ado, let’s look back at Hone’s rise to his role of captain and the chances of him doing the unthinkable and making his dream come true of playing for England.

Leading from the Front

The Cinderford management took the decision in 2020 to make Harry Hone captain after the number eight had spent three seasons with the club. Initially, Hone had played for Birmingham Moseley as he began his journey in adult rugby in 2015. Previously, Hone had also represented the Gloucester senior side and has toured twice with England Counties in 2018 and 2019, before taking on the captaincy at Cinderford.

Considering the trajectory of his career, it seems likely that the 28-year-old is destined to play at the highest level and perhaps even a World Cup, especially after his contribution to Cinderford’s campaign this season. It will be a race against time, though, when you take into account that at the next World Cup in 2023, Hone will be 30.

More than anything, it will be a story of perseverance should the Cinderford captain do so and perhaps the greatest example of a ‘late bloomer’ that the game has ever seen. What could be even more astonishing is that Hone has a chance of being on the winning side as Eddie Jones’ men are one of the favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup in Paris.

The Impossible Dream?

Hone’s journey is a truly engaging one that fans are following closely. We can see this high engagement in the fact that so many are wagering on matches, not just the ones Hone is currently in but the ones he could be a part of in the future. Wagering has become globally popular, demonstrated by a large amount of choice in the betting market. All vying for custom, big brands are putting out offers, such as a Bet365 bonus code, to draw punters away from competitors. We will see this ramp up in a couple of years’ time, as England is at enticing odds of just 4/1 to go all the way in France in 2023.

You can see why there is a rush to back the 2003 World Cup winners as it will, in many ways, be somewhat of a home World Cup for England as only the English Channel separates the two countries. Whether Harry Hone is there or not remains to be seen. But perhaps, for now, we should just enjoy watching a man in his prime playing some of the best rugby in any of the divisions in England. It has been an extremely fruitful few seasons for Harry Hone in the Southwest and it wouldn’t be fair to judge the success of his career on getting to the highest level of rugby union.

The next few months could even be the pinnacle of his career as he captains Cinderford to promotion, which is something you would have to say is looking more and more of a certainty.