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Stowmarket Rugby Club ‘well prepared but cautious’ ahead of first game of season at home to Epping Upper Clapton

Stowmarket RUFC’s new director of rugby John Holton has said promotion is ‘very much the aim’ this season but is cautious of the threat posed by other teams in London 2 North East.

Holton led the team as head coach to an impressive third place last season, as they narrowly missed out on a shot at back-to-back promotions in their first season in the division by missing out on a play-off spot by just two league points.

They had been promoted from London 3 Eastern Counties the season earlier.

Matt Edison, a former Bury St Edmunds player, will be head coach of Stowmarket
Matt Edison, a former Bury St Edmunds player, will be head coach of Stowmarket

Holton believes the squad, who will this season be led by former player-coach Matt Edison, are ready for the next level.

They will host league newcomers Epping Upper Clapton in their opening league match tomorrow (3pm), with a good start crucial to their promotion ambitions.

“They got promoted last year so it will be their first game at this level,” Holton said.

“And that makes it interesting, we’re not sure what to expect.”

Holton added: “We showed last year that we could deal with the step up so we will be cautious.

“Promotion is very much the aim for our season but, like the first game, we’re not sure what the other clubs will bring to the table this season, and how strong they will be. We’ve heard some have made big changes.

“We started training in July and we’ve had great numbers and commitment to each session, so we feel well prepared and in a good place, but you don’t really know until the first game.”

He said Stowmarket had played in a pre-season tournament against Diss, who were relegated from London 1 North to Stow’s division for this season, and he had been impressed by the quality on show.

“They looked extremely keen to go straight back up and I think they’ll be up there,” Holton said.

“Southwold will be a difficult team as will Holt, who look like they’re coming back to strength.

“And you can never discount Norwich or Ipswich, who are city clubs, they should be doing better than this league and are a threat.

“So we’re not the only side in the league who will be looking at promotion.

“The first game is important, but last year we were heavily defeated in our opening game and went on to finish third, as we then won our next three.

“So it’s more about getting those sort of returns three from four, the first month is critical.

“And we’re looking forward to lots of derbies this season, with plenty of teams nearby.”

* In London 3 Eastern Counties, Thurston will play their first game at home to Crusaders on Saturday (3pm) looking to build on a tough season last time out.

They finished one place off the bottom in tenth position and will hope for better fortunes – and more victories than their total of three – this season.

Thetford have a lay week with an odd number of teams in the division.

With bottom club Ipswich YM competing once more, it seems they were handed a reprieve.

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