North Walsham RFC aiming to bounce back
North Walsham's season gets under way on Saturday afternoon when they are at home to Enfield Ignatians in London 2NE.
The Middlesex side will be a completely unknown quantity and will have to be taken extremely seriously as they finished well up the table last season while Walsham were of course relegated.
While some clubs suffer a mass exodus of players when relegation strikes the effect has been minimal at Scottow. Jamie Burroughs, who missed all bar the first couple of games last season with injury, has joined Diss, a logical move as it is much closer to home for him. Bruce van Poortvliet, another with long term injuries, has returned to his home club of Holt while brothers Nick and Laurence Austin have gone to Norwich.
On the plus side there is a decent number of young players moving up from the junior ranks and some returnees after completing their university education.
Pre-season for the Scottow outfit has been fairly low key but in the past three weeks there has been a noticeable upping of the tempo. Meaningful friendly fixtures have been hard to find and Nick Greenhall was unwilling to put young and inexperienced players up against hardened older players at a more senior level. However a good run out against Old Albanians II and the annual fixture against Southwold have shown that there should be the manpower to get the side off to a good start.
With Mark McCall still recovering from the broken ankle suffered at the end of last season the hooking duties could fall to Tim Mason but he will have competition from youngsters Aaron Beaumont and Ollie Ware. The Roberts brothers Seb and Dom, Barney Sands and Will Love could push for front row slots.
The back five will have a familiar look with all last year's practitioners still in the frame and young Matty Norfolk-Clarke on the fringes. The scrum half slot is likely to be contested by Dean Blyth and Henry Dewing while outside half Jamie Forrester is back at least until the end of the year.
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Centre Stephen Hyde's studies have taken him to the southern hemisphere for a year but his fellow student Will Hodgson is likely to pair up with Adie Ball, whose appearances last season were restricted but is now back and looking fit. There could be pressure from Jack Dove and Harry Downing who had an impressive season for the Raiders last year. The game will kick off as usual at 3pm.
The Raiders are due to travel to Bury St Edmunds for a pre-season friendly.