BASINGSTOKE RFC start their new league campaign on Saturday at home to Alresford and this season are led by brand new coaching team, headed up by two ex-playing legends.

Simon Appleby is the new head coach and Dave Lambert is his assistant, they bring a wealth of playing experience to a group of players, who despite poor results last season, have a great deal of potential within them.

Chair of Playing David Greenaway believes the environment the coaches are building is the one needed for the club to rebuild again after four challenging seasons.

They both understand and care about the club and have the right mindset and attitude to deal with the challenges that they will face across the season.

Appleby started playing rugby as Basingstoke 30 years ago and this season will add to his 220 appearances for club.

He brings a strong presence and experience which has been missing in recent years.

Pre-season for Stoke has been good, which included two strong wins, 71-8 at home against Hook and Odiham and then a 41-0 away win against Tadley.

The squad has been bolstered by the return of several old faces such as Russell Northcote, Dave and Dan Rees in the forwards and Gareth Kelly in the backs alongside the arrival of five new players to the club.

The new addition alongside the core players from last season will be led by captain Jon Bird and supported by vice captains Rhyan Harmon and Ross Catlin.

First up for Stoke in the Hampshire Premiership is a home match against Alresford.

They also have a new coach in Andy Fields.

Fields is known to many of the Basingstoke players having either been taught by him or played under him while at Queen Mary’s College and is likely to bring a side that is well drilled.

A week on Saturday is another home match which is against Bognor both games kick-off at 3pm.