Neil Dachtler sees a testing start for Sudbury Rugby Club in London 1 North
Sudbury face a tough start to the new London 1 North season, with eight matches in the first eight weeks, and two of their first three against teams expected to be challenging for promotion.
After a home start against Eton Manor on Saturday (3pm), Sudbury travel to Colchester a week later, the Essex club having missed out on promotion after losing in the play-offs last season.
Seven days after that Shelford, relegated from London & SE Premier, are the visitors to Whittome Field.
“It’s a very demanding start,” said Neil Dachtler, who heads the club’s coaching team following the departure of Ben Scully for Colchester at the end of last season. “But we’ve got some good depth in the squad, and we’ll use that for the first eight weeks. It will give us a good chance to see many of the players.”
Dachtler feels this season will be harder than last, when Sudbury were involved in a relegation battle, eventually finishing fifth from bottom, one place below Saturday’s visitors.
Chingford and Brentwood came down with Shelford, and North Walsham finished third in London 1 North last season. Those three, along with Shelford and Colchester, are expected to be among the front runners.
“There are a lot of teams which have points to prove,” said Dachtler. “We want to prove a point, that we can continue what we started last season, and we want to make an impact. We have aspirations to be high up in this league.”
Sudbury have been strengthened by the return of Sam Bixby after several seasons with National 2 South side Bury St Edmunds, and Henry Cowling, back after a spell with Shelford. Austin Beckett is also back after completing his studies at Loughborough, and brother Frazer, who missed last season after suffering a fractured wrist on opening day, is also back in action.
Shaun Smith is unavailable in the first half of the season as he is travelling the US and Canada. Harry Watkins and Andy Goodbourne are unlikely to be regularly available because of work commitments.
Dachtler, pictured, heads a seven-strong management and coaching team – Dick Sumner, Simon Dain, David Minter, Lee Cooper, Bruce Cowley and Colin Humphreys – every one of them former players, and most of them having coached at various levels at the club.
“All the boys involved have worn the Sudbury shirt at some time,” said Dachtler. “We are all blue blooded. We’re not professional coaches, we all have jobs, but we all have a vested interest in the club doing well.”