Huddersfield RUFC are set to launch their 2022/23 National 2 North campaign with a home tie against Sheffield Tigers on Saturday 3rd September, kicking off at 2.15pm.
The RFU have have restructured the fourth tier of English rugby for the new season. In place of the old system, with two divisions of 16 teams, a new structure with three divisions of 14 teams has been introduced. The Northern Division, in which Huddersfield has been placed, has eight Yorkshire teams in it and some tasty local derbies are in prospect.
At the end of a COVID blighted 2021/22 season, Huddersfield finished second from bottom in their division. But, with the reorganisation of the National League imminent, there was no relegation from it at the end of the season. The team will be starting their campaign on -5 points, having been penalised by the RFU for a breach of front row regulations earlier this year.
Gaz Lewis, newly appointed as Director of Rugby at the club, is un-phased by the penalty. ‘Although we may not agree with it we have to accept it and it will serve to fuel our fire. Last year, in the wake of the pandemic, our pre-season preparation was a struggle. This year has been in stark contrast. We have regularly had between 30 and 50 players in attendance at training, which has created a real positivity in the camp. All last year’s players have re-signed and the squad has been boosted by new arrivals and the return of former players. We also have some promising young players moving up and, with Darren Neilly, Gav Rhodes and Joe Shiel at the helm in our Falcons/Development XV, we are looking forward to the new season with optimism.’
Sheffield Tigers finished in 9th place in last year’s standings, comfortably mid-table. They too have recruited well over the summer and the opening fixture may well prove to be a bellwether for the season ahead. Lewis’ task is to find the right balance of players to make the team tick. The return to the club of tight head prop Andy Rollins, from Darlington Mowden Park, and the signing of the burly Manny Effiom from Sedgley Park will have eased Lewis’ front row worries. Club stalwarts Loz Sanderson and Callum Thompson are returning to the boiler house for another season, alongside regular first team hooker Liam Stapley, giving Lewis options in the quest for good first phase ball.
Lewis may find himself spoiled for choice when selecting backs to exploit it. North of England Under 20 fly half Tom Lee has joined the club, along with wingman Finlay Stewart, who has rugby league experience with Rochdale Hornets. Finlay will be joining his brother Kian, who is also a winger, and one of Huddersfield’s most potent strikers. The brothers are sons of Huddersfield Town legend, Marcus Stewart. Another rugby leaguer who has joined the club is Ed Barber. The experienced centre is currently finishing the summer season with Halifax Panthers RL and will be available for selection for Huddersfield at the end of it. Young scrum half, Billy Summers, has come through the club’s youth system. He is the son of Neil Summers, who joined HRUFC from Wakefield as player/coach. Neil also coached both his sons through Age Grade and Academy. Having had experience in the junior county sides, Billy is stepping up to senior level this year.
The opening game will be preceded by a minutes silence in memory of John Greenwood, who passed away at the age of 82 in July. Greenwood made 532 appearances for Huddersfield and captained the team. He was capped 37 times for Yorkshire, the most by any Huddersfield player. He was President of the HRUFC 1991/92 and a honorary life member of the club.