Sudbury take a step into the unknown when they travel to West Norfolk for their season-opening London Three North East game on Saturday.
West Norfolk —runaway winners of Eastern Counties League One last season — will provide a tough early test and the Gatehouse Lane fixture is the first of four consecutive matches for Sudbury against teams new to the division this season.
Stowmarket (relegated, home), Clacton (promoted, away) and Billericay (relegated, home) are next up.
Sudbury director of rugby Graham Richards is looking to continue where the team left off last season.
“We have to make sure we are a top half team again and build on the success of last year,” he said. “We have to create a winning environment, playing good rugby which people will want to watch.
“And it is most important we start with a win away from home.”
Sudbury rounded off a good pre-season against Hadleigh in the Josh Rix memorial match on Saturday.
The game was played in four quarters, with the potential first team playing the first and last, and the seconds the middle two.
Hadleigh, who had fewer players, inevitably tired and conceded 63 points in the last 20 minutes as Sudbury cut loose.
“I had to give our better players game time,” said Richards, who also felt the performance of the seconds augurs well for their Eastern Counties division three South season. “I think our first team is a bit better than last year.
“We have had good numbers training, and we still have some players yet to come back.
“If we can step up mentally, and withstand a bit of a battering at times, we should do well.”
Richards has a very young squad at his disposal.
On Saturday, all but two of the players were under 25, with a number under 20.
The side has been strengthened by the signing of former Natal Sharks academy player Troye Streicher, who has renewed his partnership in the backs with Ethan Wright.
Both played at St Joseph’s, Ipswich, under Richards.
Justin Burton is likely to return for Saturday’s game and, if George Murray is available, Nick Robinson will switch to full-back.
Toby White is unavailable, but Richards is hopeful he will be back for the Stowmarket home game a week later. Dan Cracknell’s availability is also uncertain.
Dick Sumner, who played for Sudbury in the 1980s and later for Wasps, is helping Richards with first-team coaching this season, having previously coached juniors at the club.
“He is a vastly experienced player, probably one of the best to come out of Sudbury,” said Richards, “and can pass on a wealth of knowledge to our young players.”
n Hadleigh start their Eastern Counties Division Two South campaign with a home game against Felixstowe.
In Three South Sudbury Seconds are home to Harwich and Dovercourt, and Halstead Templars home to Thurston.