Chichester RFC start their London one south campaign this Saturday (Sep 3) at home to Beckenham (3pm) at Oaklands Park.
The Blues will be doing their best to achieve the promotion they missed so narrowly last season.
They look forward to 26 matches in a very competitive division which consists of five teams from Kent, four from Hampshire, three from Sussex and two from Surrey. New teams to the league are Basingstoke, Guernsey, Trojans and Old Elthamians.
Chichester have retained most of their successful 2010-11 squad and there are some new recruits. However they will lose an outstanding player when Chris Johnson departs to Hull university.
Moses Kasujja has stepped aside from the captaincy after three great years – although will continue to be in the squad – and lock forward Scott Barlow (pictured above) takes over the reins.
Barlow is in his third season at Chichester and said: “It’s a great honour to captain the first team. We have a lot of good players and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Billy Toone will be vice-captain.
Director of rugby Paul Colley said: “Billy and Scott have fitted in brilliantly, really helping us take the next step up as far as Chichester rugby development is concerned.”
The players have been training since July and Colley with coaches Richard Isaac and Rob Lawrence have put them through their paces.
A friendly has been played at Horsham and another at National division three club Dorking.
Last season Chichester won 12 out of 13 games at home and they will probably need to win them all this time to maintain their promotion bid.
Although phased rugby is necessary to crack stiff defences at this top amateur level, there is still scope for the open running game which Chichester favour – so fans can expect more of the speed and footwork which makes them such an exciting outfit to watch.
The excellent second XV will be out to retain their leadership of the Hampshire Senior Merit league and win the Sussex Bowl again. Their squad will continue to underpin the first XV and there is keen competition for selection.
They also have a new captain and vice-captain. Mark Giddings stood in a lot last year when the skipper was injured and was the standout choice for this season with his passion and intensity.
He will be assisted on the pitch by Martin O’Callaghan, the big Mancunian who can play almost anywhere in the pack.
The third XV face their first season in Sussex one following promotion and it will be interesting to see if they can achieve a respectable position at this higher level. The fourths and fifths will also aim to compete well, while a busy season is on the cards for the thriving junior section at Oaklands.
The club hope to see all their regular supporters and many new faces on Saturday to cheer the Blues to victory.