Bury St Edmunds rugby club is buzzing with excitement and expectation as the new players and staff settle in, according to performance director Terry Sands.
The club has announced a string of changes across the summer to both the squad and the coaches, with seven further signings revealed this week.
And Sands has said it has sparked an enthusiasm never before felt in the dressing room.
“It’s a great feeling round the club at the moment”, he said. “The players are on a level playing field; we think they all have such talent, and everyone’s really enthusiastic about our prospects for the season.
“It’s an exciting feeling and it’s transferred on to the pitch already as players have been giving even more than usual in training.
“It’s great to see as that’s what we need and want to have a successful season.”
The National League Two South outfit will have their first chance to lay down a marker for the season as they take on their first pre-season opponents, away to Bishop’s Stortford, on Saturday, August 12 (2.30pm).
Sands said the squad have upped their training sessions from two to three nights a week in preparation for the game.
“We have three very tough pre-season games”, he said. “But everyone is really up for it, and the new team are bonding well. I think these games will give us the best preparation for the season.
“We struggled to hit top gear last season and we’re determined to change.”
They have been helped by ex-Leicester Tigers hooker James Buckland, who has provided guest scrum coaching.
The team’s first home game, a training game against Gavin Hogg’s Old Albanians will be on August 19 (2.30pm) before the final preparation game away to Fylde (2.30pm).
Sands said the pre-season was more important than ever due to the team changes over the summer, with new head coach Ollie Smith only joining the squad last week and seven players coming in this week.
They will join new rugby director Kevin Maggs and new academy coach Dimitri Tonni.
Boyd Rouse, a centre and fly half, joins from Zimbabwe while second row William Scholes comes in from US Cognac in Federale 1 France (the country’s highest amateur league).
Dwayne Corcoran, a centre and wing, joins from Connacht but also brings experience of playing in New Zealand.
Brendan Mitchell also brings experience from Down Under as the back row joins from Sunnybank Dragons Premiers in Australia, while second row Dan Swithenbank comes in from Patumahoe Premiers in New Zealand and Bandon RFC in Ireland.
Ulster Under-20s hooker Tristan King has also signed up, moving from Malone RFC in Ireland. He will be joined by young winger and fullback Jon Younie, who joins from North Walsham.
The latest new players follow the re-signings of Luke Palmer, Harry Anderson-Brown, Alex Grey, Shaque Meyers, Will Simpson and Will Affleck, as well as new signings’ Luca Merolle, Federico Silvestri, Daniele Greco, Yasin Browne and Tui Uri.
Sands confirmed there would be one or two further names announced, but that the bulk of the squad was now agreed.
And club members will have a chance to meet the new team on Saturday, August 5.
The players will be there for a training session (5pm-7pm) and members will be able to enjoy a barbecue and drinks while watching the team, as well as a chance for the club’s loyal supporters to meet the new faces.