Sudbury Rugby Club head coach Graham Richards is calling on his youngsters to come of age after losing their two most senior players.
Stalwarts Mark Bolton, a former rugby league professional, and last season’s vice-captain Richard Lorking have both decided to hang their boots up.
But ahead of their first pre-season friendly, at home to Hadleigh in the second Josh Rix Memorial Cup tomorrow night (7.30pm), Richards is looking for his existing players to fill the void they have left.
“It is time for the likes of Tom Summers, Tom Murray, Andy Currie, Justin Burton and Bart Minter to step up,” he said. “The excuses have got to go as they have played two to three seasons in seniors and now they have got to fulfil their potential.
“Tom Summers is only 20, but has played over 50 first-team games and the time has come for these guys.”
The average age of the squad is set to be about 21 with experienced Alex Pears, who was out injured all last season, having been made club captain while Summers will continue as first-team captain.
Will and Ollie Morgan will not be available until the cricket season finishes next month, while Fraser Beckett will play during university holidays and when he can get home.
Richards is not expecting Northampton Saints Under-18s’ duo Austin Beckett and George Wacokecoke to be available until after Christmas though, if at all, due to their club and school commitments.
“If we see them at all it will not be until after Christmas,” he said, in what is an important year for both players’ rugby futures.
Meanwhile, a quartet of unnamed new players have been training with the squad, including front row players, and will get a chance to see if they are ready to compete as part of the first-team squad in three friendlies, starting tomorrow.
But with former players coming in to honour the memory of Rix, their former number eight who tragically died at the age of 23 last January, against Hadliegh, Richards says it will not be until the trip to Ipswich next Saturday that he gets to fully learn more about the new players.
Sudbury then host Swaffham on September 7 before opening their London League Three North East season at home to Wymondham on September 14.
Suds were given a relegation reprieve from dropping into the Eastern Counties League after finishing third-bottom last campaign, but are hoping not to be dragged into trouble this time out.
“Pre-season training has gone well and I think we are fitter than last year and the understanding of the game has got better,” said Richards.
“But rugby is not played on the training pitch like with other sports.
“We have the Josh Rix Memorial Cup match this week but Ipswich next Saturday will give an indication of where we are.”