Basingstoke RFC determined to do themselves justice in National Three London (From Basingstoke Gazette)
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Basingstoke RFC determined to do themselves justice in National Three London
THEY worked so hard to win promotion last season – and now Basingstoke RFC are determined to make sure they do themselves justice in National Three London.
The Down Grange club get their season under way on Saturday (kick-off 3pm), travelling to East Grinstead, who were promoted from London One South alongside them last season.
It’s likely to be a tricky season for ’Stoke, one of very few truly amateur clubs at this level – but director of rugby James Croker is confident that his side will give a good account of themselves.
“We know we are capable of being competitive – we just need to hit our A game even more consistently,” he said.
“It is a two-year project whenever you go up a division, unless you are paying big money. What we do this season will set a platform for the next one.
“We want to be competitive in every game – if not winning, then getting bonus points.
“We also want to make Down Grange a fortress that people do not like coming to, and if we can tick both of those boxes, then there is no reason why we shouldn’t have a good season.”
That may be true, but Basingstoke could find it tough in the opening weeks.
Notoriously slow starters anyway, they face an East Grinstead side unbeaten in more than a year before hosting title favourites Dorking in week two.
’Stoke will also be missing key players for the opening fixtures.
Fly-half Adam Davies and centre Freddie Gleadowe, two of the top performers last season, are in New Zealand until the middle of the month, while No 8 Will Ford, full-back Ash Paterson and winger Gareth Kelly are all injured.
“The spirit in the camp is really positive but we are going to have a tricky start to the season,” Croker admitted.
“We are not a professional outfit so we have to accept that players are having to juggle things, while we also have a long injury list, but we have a strong squad to cope with it.”
New signing Andy Barnes is likely to deputise for Davies at fly-half, having played in that position for Hampshire last season, while either Matt Guilfoyle or Callum Staff could partner David Byett at centre.
Matt Horne is set to take Ford’s place at the back of the scrum, while a rehabilitated Tim Richards may feature on the wing.
However, the area where Basingstoke will be most changed is in the front row, where Croker has lost both of his starting props for the time being.
Neil Young has finally hung up his boots, with Jamie Fish and Steve Hicks taking over as joint captains, while Ollie John is in New Zealand on business until Christmas.
Croker said: “It is a bit of a worry because it is such a big position to fill.
“Neil and Ollie were leaders, but Steve Osborne played every game last season so he has been there and done it, while we also have Ryan Wilkie, Martin Wassall and Ed Pawsey all looking forward to taking up the challenge.”
The good news for ’Stoke is that they will not be going into their first match completely blind, having faced East Grinstead last season, fighting back to claim a 17-17 draw in the last game which clinched them a play-off spot.
Croker said: “It will be a bit of an unknown with some of the teams, and while we don’t know Grinstead well, we know more about them than some of the others.”
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