LAST year Caldy RFC improved on their debut season in the national leagues and climbed steadily up National Three North, finishing a strong second despite a heavy injury count that depleted their usually powerful back row.

This year it is highly likely that the renamed National Two North will be one of the most hotly contested leagues in the National League programme.

Caldy's first team coach and director of rugby, Matt Holt, explained that the combination of the RFU's league restructuring together with very difficult economic conditions has led to a significant number of high quality players moving from full-time rugby into part-time rugby as players seek to re balance their career objectives and playing squads in the Premiership, Championship and National 1 are reduced.

He said: "Many players who last season were playing at a level just below the Premiership are now looking to play in National 2 and many of the teams in National 2 North have recruited a number of such top class players and accordingly the level of competition in National 2 North this season will be extremely fierce.

"I believe that new entrant to this league, Hull RFC, coached by rugby league superstar Tevita Vaikona, and our North West rivals Macclesfield have both recruited heavily in the close season and wherever you look it is difficult to see anything but demanding games ahead this coming season."

Holt acknowledges that with the loss of some 10 players first team players from last season due to retirement, work commitments and movements out of the area Caldy could have been at a real disadvantage in the new campaign.

"When you lose such strong and experienced players as second rowers Paul White and Richard Bradshaw who have both retired from first team rugby, and back row players Sam Dickinson who is attending trials at Rotherham and Matt Lamming, who is studying at Loughborough University, it is bound to have a real impact on the team.

"However, we are very fortunate that Caldy's strong position in North West rugby has enabled us to attract some new high quality players who were either based locally or who have moved into the area and I believe these new players will help us to be competitive this coming season".

New players at Caldy this season include experienced second row from Moseley RFC Paul Arnold who has taken a job in Liverpool.

Paul is joined at Caldy by his team mate from Moseley RFC, stand off Richard Vasey who is studying at Liverpool University. Both players were Moseley regulars last season.

Former Waterloo RFC back row player John Nugent who has been playing in France for the past year has also joined Caldy along with another French based player, second row Gareth Rawlings who was formerly at Manchester RFC but has spent the last 2 years playing for Limoges in France.

Gareth Rawlings has been joined at Caldy by his brother and England Counties centre, Scott Rawlings who was at Manchester RFC last year.

Although Caldy have lost the services of scrum half Sam Cottrell who has rejoined National 1 club Wharfedale they have benefitted from Sam's recommendation to hookers Tom Greensmith from Otley RFC and Sean Strudwick from the Wasps Academy who have subsequently joined Caldy after moving to Merseyside.

Waterloo players hooker Peter Ince, winger Neil Kerfoot and prop Liam Mcloughlin have moved to Caldy and are joined by other local stars including Craig Smithson, formerly of New Brighton and last season Macclesfield RFC, tight head prop Jack Collister from Hoylake RFC and pacy winger Jonathan Fuller from Mold.

However not all of the recent signings are new to the club as Caldy are also looking forward to the return of promising scrum half Louis Orme and powerful centre Marcus Coast who was instrumental in the club's rise through the leagues over the past few years.

Chris McGlory returns from a long lay off with injury and will be a welcome addition to the squad.

Perhaps the most high profile signing this season is tight head prop Stuart Turner from Sale.

Stuart, who boasts caps for both England and the Barbarians among his rugby achievements, is now working for his family's business in Liverpool but is very keen to remain involved in rugby in the North West.

His premiership and international experience will be a very significant asset for Caldy both at 1st XV level and throughout the club generally and he has already made a significant impression on pre-season training.

The senior squad has been training hard for several weeks in preparation for the tough season ahead.

Gareth Davies, rugby manager said: "We have been training three times a week with the 50 or so players comprising the senior squad being put through demanding sessions by Matt Holt and his team.

"Although the fitness sessions run by Paul White make me wince I am happy to see that all the players are gelling and performing well especially young tight head prop, Jack Collister who has made the move from local rival club Hoylake RFC.

"No-one has crossed from Hoylake to Caldy for a long time and it says a great deal about Jack's character and determination. I expect him to make a big impact during the season."


Last year's first team squad was also hit by the loss of players such as Carl Porschke, Matt Pennington and Matt Green who have all retired from first team rugby.

Winger Liam Devaney will be working overseas and fellow winger Ian Murray has been ruled out for the season as he requires knee surgery. Ben Wylie will be out for some time with a recurring foot problem.

Gareth Davies said: "I am excited by the talented new players that have chosen to join Caldy and the pre-season progress of our existing players."

Matt Holt said: "I am a big believer in performance, not wins, and the new additions to the squad will ensure that in every position there is strong competition for places.

"Everyone's attitude has been spot on since the start of pre-season training and we have a committed and ambitious group of players. Our pre-season games against Glasgow Hawks on August 22 and London Scottish on August 29 will give us early pointers to our preparation for the new season.

"I'm confident that across the club we can improve on last year's performance."