IVYBRIDGE coach Lewis Paterson is expecting plenty of selection headaches this coming season.
The Bridgers, who finished sixth in National Three South West last season, have managed to keep all their regular first team starters from last term.
They also have George Wilson, Dom Loomes, James Sloan and George de Mendonca back after missing significant parts of last season for various reasons and have a host of promising colts moving up into the first team.
In addition, they have added Devon under-20 forwards Robin Luscombe and Ben Logan to their ranks.
Prop Logan, who has joined from Honiton, also impressed for the county under-20 side and was a South West trialist.
“Robin and Ben have already been training and looking sharp. They have also blended in well with the other lads,” said Ivybridge player-coach Paterson, who worked with them with Devon Under-20s.
“They are both really incredible athletes and they don’t look out of place.
“We have a good culture and we are a very friendly club and that makes it easy for them to get along with everyone one. It can be quite daunting changing clubs when you are young, especially at this level.
“But it is nice that they wanted to join us. We are not a club that goes out and really signs players. I gave them the option and they said they wanted to come along.”
He added: “It’s good to get a couple of new faces in and we’ve also got some colts coming up who are very handy, like Jay Toogood, Harry Lakeman, Adam Walker and Mark Corner.
“They are all very talent players and it’s good to have these guys coming up and pushing. There’s also another young lad who has added to our front row options – Owen Garner, who’s a very good hooker.
“We also have Marcus Prout officially with us as a senior and fellow prop Wes Vermigle. We have counted 10 front-row players that could all play National Three, so we are very lucky.
“George Wilson is back, Dom Loomes is training again as is James Sloan. George de Mondoneca is also back and looking sharp in training, so we have got a really strong squad this year.
“Jamie Tripcony and myself have selected basically a senior squad of about 40 players who will play first team or second/development team. We want to make sure we are fielding two quality sides each Saturday. We want to keep working on that depth.”
He added: “They are all turning up training and looking good. It is really promising.
“But it is already causing headaches. You can’t but speculated about what side you are going to put out, but you don’t even know whose name you would be putting in first.”
Ivybridge are hoping they can improve on their sixth place finished last season at level five. National Three South West will now be called South West Premier, but it is likely to be even stronger next season with Dings missing out on promotion, Exmouth coming down and Newton Abbot and Brixham making some big signings.
“It’s a tough league,” said Paterson. “It was last year. We were absolutely gutted to finish sixth and see some of the teams that finished ahead of us, knowing we had beaten a quite few and should have beaten more.
“We let two games slip against Old Reds, same with Dings. Those were games we should have won.
“We were in the top three for about 20 weeks of the season and so were disappointed to finish sixth.”
Ivybridge are targeting a top four finish this term and are pleased to once again be able to play higher league sides Taunton and Plymouth Albion in pre-season, which they feel will help them prepare for the campaign.
They will play Taunton at Cross-in-Hand on August 24 and then play Albion at Brickfields on Monday, August 28, which is five days before the league season kicks off.
The Bridgers will open their pre-season programme with an inter-club match on August 5 and also play Cullompton at home on August 19.
“We have two massive games just before the season starts to finalise our squad,” said Paterson. “They will be a proper tests going into the main games.
“We can focus on Taunton and Albion as we would a league game.”
Ivybridge have announced that prop Matt Finn will be their new captain for the 2017/18 season.
He will take over from Jordan Anderton, who did the role last year.
“So far we have always changed the captain every year,” said Paterson. “It is good to share the leadership around.
“Matt Finn, like Jordan Anderton, is a perfect example of how this club has developed.
“He is the highest capped current player for Ivybridge at the age of 25. He’s played for Devon and made massive leaps in his game.”
Ivybridge have also got a new director of rugby and specific coaches for their second/development team.
“It is looking promising this year on and off the field,” said Paterson.
“We’ve got a new director of rugby, John Belcher, as Paul Setter has stood down and Rowland Whittington is the team manager.
“We have also now got second team coaches to work with our development side on a Saturday – Simon Garner and Steve Toogood. They are going to work with us in terms of feedback and helping the players. There is going to be much better communication.
“We have really done some off-the-field work and got a good team in place.”
Ivybridge will open their league campaign with an away trip to last season’s runners-up Dings Crusaders on September 2.