Huddersfield RUFC are well underway for life in the National North III.
Change has been aplenty for the Field since their relegation and amongst several additions to the club has seen the arrival of ex-Huddersfield Giants coach Matt Green, and head coach Gareth Lewis has hailed the club’s progress this summer.
“Pre-season has been going pretty well,” said Lewis. “When a team is relegated you’ve got to freshen things up to re-engage the players and we’ve done this by adding Matt Green, who is in charge of the players’ strength and conditioning, to the coaching team.”
“It’s fair to say the lads have been worked incredibly hard, but not one single member of the group has given anything less than 100%, which is exactly what I’ve been looking for.”
The Huddersfield squad has also had the helping hands of Newcastle Falcons player and former All Saints student Ben Harris as well as Giants’ Danny Brough who have taken training sessions, with the former taking the forwards and the latter working on the backs.
Huddersfield travel to Lichfield this Saturday before facing Preston Grasshoppers at Lockwood Park the following week, and they will be hoping to make their training pay dividends on the field.
Lewis said: “We are taking a large squad down to Lichfield so that we can take a look at everybody. It looks as though we will be playing three thirty minutes, so we will be able to look at different combinations and get rid of the inevitable rustiness.”
“Preston will be another tough challenge. They were excellent last season and appear to have recruited well, but I’m always keen for us to test ourselves against higher level opposition.”
With the season fast approaching, Alex Battye, who lead the Field through a tough end to the 2015/16 season, explained how proud he is to head into his first full season as captain.
“I can’t wait to lead the boys out in a couple of weeks,” said Battye.
“It has been one of, if not the best, pre-seasons I have been involved with at Huddersfield. We are fitter than ever before and our decision making when we are under fatigue are right.”
“The specific sessions with the guys who have come in have been great for both the forwards and backs. Everything they both told us will hopefully stand us in good stead for the upcoming season.”
“With regards to the Lichfield and Preston games, it’s important we find progression every time we play.”
“Preston is a game the lads are looking at because we were well beaten last season by them twice, so it would be nice to right those wrongs.
“But they are also a National Two side and that’s ultimately where we want to be back as soon as possible.”
As well as keeping the bulk of their squad, Huddersfield have seen many new faces join their team, and Mark Pease, a centre who can play fly-half, spoke of his excitement to get on the Huddersfield colours:
“Everyone is looking forward to the games. We’ve done a lot of good things in training but it’s a good opportunity to put things into practice in a game scenario and under some pressure.”
“We’ve worked hard on our fitness so it will be good to get some match minutes into us and see if we can take some momentum into the first game against Sandal.
With it being a local derby against some old friends, we need to hit the season running.”
Francis Entressengle, another new signing, said:
“Pre-season training has been tough but very well organised and I feel the recovery rates have been hugely stepped up.”
“The fact that we haven’t seen any injuries is testament to the guys looking after themselves and we are all really buying into the club’s ambition for promotion.”
“It also means the competition for places in the 18-man squad will be higher than ever.”
“I can’t wait to see what Lichfield and Preston bring and hope they’re tough encounters. I feel the team have learnt some tough lessons from last season, but most importantly we’ve developed resilience and determination.”
Lewis added: “All the new recruits have fitted in really well. I think some have been taken aback by how hard they’ve worked but are now ready for the games to begin. All seven new signings will feature in the pre-season game against Lichfield.”
Other good news in the ranks at Lockwood Park is the fact that both Lewis and backs coach Phil Gostling have qualified as level three coaches, and they’ll be wanting to put their practise to perfect in order to bring Huddersfield back to where they belong.
“It’s been a tough but enjoyable experience over the last twelve months,” said Lewis.
“It’s certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed us to drop in at the likes of Leicester Tigers, Sale Sharks and Huddersfield Giants to pick up fresh ideas. I’m spending the day with Yorkshire Carnegie on Tuesday 16th August so I’m looking forward to it immensely.”
Lewis, speaking of the new season, also added:
“When the fixtures came out, it just confirmed what a tough competition this will be. There are literally no easy games.
However, I personally wouldn’t want it any other way and the players and coaches are incredibly excited for the new season to begin.”
By Patrick Moore