Doncaster Knights might be playing with a target on their backs this season but director of rugby Clive Griffiths believes his players can cope.
The Knights dropped down into SSE National League One after a Championship campaign that saw them pick up just three wins. But a strong pre-season, that has seen them record comfortable victories over Sheffield Tigers and Hull RU as well as running rivals and Championship side Leeds Carnegie close, has boosted confidence.
Crucially, the club has also managed to continue to operate on a full-time basis.
Blackheath are the first visitors to Castle Park tomorrow with the former Wales international expecting a tough battle from the team that finished 10th last year.
“The start of a new season always sends a tingle down the spine” said Griffiths. “We have had a strong pre-season and the lads are all keen. I am sure Blackheath will be expecting to be at the top. They will be going all guns blazing to upset the apple cart but we are ready. The lads are well aware that other clubs will be going all out to beat us this season being the team that’s come down.
“But we have just got to turn it around in our favour, it will be like that all season. We are aiming for promotion. That’s why the club is trying remain full-time, to put ourselves in a good position of getting back into the Championship.”
The club has also been busy over the summer bringing in a host of new faces including former Plymouth Albion fly-half Paul Roberts, Argentinean scrum-half Bruno Bravo, Italian hooker Roberto Santamaria and former New Zealand U21 flanker Chris Walker.
And Griffiths, who rejoined the club last November, believes the new look squad is already showing encouraging signs for a successful season.
“It was a very disappointing season last year,” he added. “We felt a complete overhaul of the whole club was necessary.
“A number of players left but the players that wanted to be here and fight for the cause stayed and that’s what I want.
“We’ve got people like our captain Matt Challinor, Chis Hallam, Adam Kettle who will form the back bone of the club and then we’ve brought new players in too.
“They have all really gelled, that’s the biggest positive. I swear they have all been together six years than that simply the pre season they have had together. We have a good unity and there is also a lot of good banter in there too.”
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