Whitby Maroons get their 2015/16 campaign underway when they travel to Roundhegians in the first round of the Yorkshire Shield.
Coach Darryl Grason is treating Saturday’s game as an opportunity for his players to gain some match sharpness ahead of next week’s Durham/Northumberland Division Two opener at Sunderland.
“We’re not going to win this competition in a month of Sundays such is the strength of the sides you’ll come up against, so we’re trust treating it as a chance to get some match fitness,” he said.
“We haven’t played any friendlies in pre-season so this will be a good opportunity to sharpen up before we kick off our league campaign.
“We’ll travel with a bit of a depleted squad and we know that they will be strong – particularly in the forwards – but we’ll aim to go there and play our own brand of free-flowing rugby and just see what happens.”
Grason plans to start Jannie Jacobs at scrum-half and Stuart Gregson in the full-back position at Leeds-based Roundhegians as he assesses his options.
Gordon Bland will line up at number 10, and Grason expects his new skipper to be key to the Maroons’ chances of a successful season.
“Having been promoted back into the division this season we know it’s going to be tough, so our captain Gordon Bland is going to have a big role to play,” he added.
“The experience of stalwart Matt Russell at prop and the likes of Connor Clements, Jack Braithwaite and Anth Craig in the back row will also be crucial.
“Unfortunately we’ve lost a couple of important players with Scott Armstrong and Nick Beaumont leaving in the close season and that is a bit of a blow.”
Whitby have made one new addition with Tom Rose, who can play fly-half or in the centres, joining the club from Guisborough.
Rose should come into contention for a place in the squad for next week’s clash at Sunderland, a game that Grason says his players are looking forward to.
“As I’ve said previously, we know it is going to be a tough season after making the step up, but we’re looking forward to getting going.
“We have a very young side and are up against some quality teams.
“I think that the key to us staying up will be making sure that we pick up points at home.”