SALTASH, Tavistock, Plymouth Argaum and Plymstock Albion Oaks all begin life in new divisions tomorrow.
The free-scoring Ashes have joined Devonport Services in Western Counties West, while Tavistock have dropped out of that league and join newly-promoted Argaum and Oaks in the Cornwall/Devon division.
Saltash have not played at Western Counties West level for nearly 20 years.
Their task on the opening day could not be harder with a match against last season’s runners-up Kingsbridge.
But Saltash are at home and all their league rivals will be worried about them after their tremendous scoring form last term. They managed an incredible 1,158 points from 26 league games – an average of 44.5 points a match.
They continued that form on last week when they hammered Bodmin 62-15 in the Cornwall Cup.
Ashes coach Richard Thompson has already said the club are determined to stick with an expansive game plan in Western Counties West.
Saltash: M Venables, W Morton, S Crawford, J Carroll, B Tolan, T Crofts (capt), D Mulberry, S Snell, R Rayner, T Anderson, T Rixon, M Scott, L Wells, K Felton, S Hillman. Reps: R Eatwell, A Merritt, H Reburn.
DEVONPORT Services, meanwhile, will be hoping to mount a push for promotion out of Western Counties West, where they have been for years.
They have not finished outside the top eight for the past three seasons. However, the closest they came to escaping was during the 2012/13 campaign when they finished third.
Their opening game against Wadebridge at the Rectory on Saturday (3pm) could give them a good indication of where they are likely to be this year.
Wadebridge, coached by Mike Rawlings, finished fifth last season, one place above Services, but they have strengthened over the summer and gave National Three South West side Ivybridge a bit of a surprise in pre-season. They also won 34-11 when they visited the Rectory for the penultimate match of last term.
Services are hoping home advantage can tell this time around and they will be holding a family fun day at the ground. Their seconds will also be playing at Stonehouse Creek against Launceston IIs (2.30pm).
The region’s top four teams – Albion, Ivybridge, Services and Saltash – might all be at home on the opening day of the season but of the three new Cornwall/Devon sides only newly-promoted Plymstock Albion Oaks have a home match.
Oaks entertain St Ives, who were relegated from Western Counties West last term.
It has been a busy summer at Horsham Fields, with Plymstock bringing in former Albion prop Tim Mathias from Launceston and Richard West from Tavistock as player-coaches.
Mathias cannot wait to make his debut for the club tomorrow.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.
“It’s been a really encouraging summer, not just from the playing side but from the support from the whole club.
“We had touch rugby sessions where we were getting 50 or 60 including juniors, seniors and girls.
“The lads have really bought into what we are doing.
“Everyone’s really looking forward to this first league game.
“It’s going to be tough against a St Ives side, who have recruited over the summer. It will be a good test to see where we are having just come up into the league.”
Mathias admits this weekend will not just be a test for Oaks’ players but for him and West.
“We are both going to be playing,” he said. “And it’s going to be interesting trying to play our own games and keep an eye out tactically, but we’ve got a lot support on the sidelines.”
As well as players from OPMs, who were relegated to Devon One, and Tavistock, Oaks have also brought in some University of Plymouth students.
“Through word of mouth people have naturally come across. It’s a great club,” said Mathias.
“There’s not many Championship, National One and National Two clubs around who have as good a clubhouse of Plymstock’s. The club’s really looking to push on.”
Argaum, Devon One champions last term, are another club looking to push on after two consecutive promotions.
Ahead of this weekend’s opener away at Honiton, Argaum were at Twickenham for the National Rugby Awards, where they were finalists in the Club of the Year category.
Argaum have had encouraging pre-season performances against OPMs and Saltash and will be looking to pick up their first Cornwall/Devon League points at Honiton, who finished 10th last term.
Tavistock, looking to rebuild after relegation from Western Counties West and the loss of a number of key players, travel to Falmouth tomorrow.
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