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Basingstoke RFC boss James Croker upbeat despite heavy defeat in league opener
’Stoke were beaten 73-5 in their first game after promotion, sparking fears that they could become the league’s whipping boys.
Croker is in no mood to entertain such thoughts, remaining confident that he has a squad capable of competing in the fifth tier of English rugby and pointing to several mitigating factors behind the heavy defeat.
“We had nine guys from the side that won the promotion play-off who were not available, while East Grinstead have recruited 10 new players, with most of them coming from much higher levels,” he said. “Our new guys will be good assets but they are coming from leagues below and it is going to take them time, not only to adjust to being here but also to the level.
“It was gutting and difficult to take because we have not been on the end of a loss like that before but when you take a step back and look at the game in terms of where both teams are, it’s not that bad.
“We will not be tearing up the copybook. We have got good players and just need to get used to this level of competition.
“We are going to be strong in this league, there is no question about that. We showed glimpses on Saturday and if we get things right in key areas then we should be OK. We have some quick fixes we can do before the next game.”
That next game is a visit from Dorking, who only missed out on promotion after they lost a play-off last year and are fancied to do well again this time around. They got their season under way with a 44-15 win over Thurrock and will be keen to make it two wins out of two on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).
“I think East Grinstead will win the league this year based on that performance and we have Dorking next, who may well finish second,” Croker added. “It’s a tough start and we have to be realistic.
“They have got a tradition of having big midfielders and I expect them to have a decent pack as well. They will be a different beast to East Grinstead, who exploited the wide channels.
“We go into every game hoping to get the right result. It’s a challenge but we are looking forward to it.”
However, Croker’s selection problems continue this week. Full-back Ash Paterson, wingers Gareth Kelly and Karl Buttle and strong-running flanker Ryan Davis are back in contention but centre Matt Guilfoyle is out injured, while joint captains Steve Hicks and Jamie Fish are both unavailable.
In addition, key men Adam Davies and Freddie Gleadowe are yet to return from New Zealand, while No 8 Will Ford remains out with a knee problem and second row Jake Henderson is ruled out due to work commitments.
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