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North Walsham head of rugby James Brooks can’t wait for the start of new campaign

The North Walsham coaching team of, from left to right, Johnny Marsters, James Brooks and Joe Beardshaw. Picture: Hywel Jones

The North Walsham coaching team of, from left to right, Johnny Marsters, James Brooks and Joe Beardshaw. Picture: Hywel Jones

Archant

North Walsham head of rugby James Brooks can’t wait for the start of the new campaign after a positive pre-season at Socttow.

Brooks is embarking on his second season with the Vikings and is looking to improve on last year’s fourth-placed finish in London One North.

“We can’t wait for the season to start,” he said. “Pre-season has gone well. We’ve been training for two months working hard on fitness, skills and patterns of play.”

The Vikings have some difficult early fixtures – they start their season at home to Colchester, who were relegated last season before entertaining Saffron Walden, who Walsham narrowly beat twice last year.

After these home matches they visit Chingford who finished second last time but their early run of fixtures doesn’t faze Brooks.

“It is a tough league and it will be good to see the standard of some of the stronger teams early on.”

Ethan Benny and Jono Lawson have returned to New Zealand; second row Lawson a particularly big loss. Another second row Chris Kent has joined Sudbury and John Younie has moved to Bury St Edmunds. Influential fly half Matt Hodgson is out for the season but Jake Duffield is a ready-made replacement.

Scrum half Will Findlay is only available for September whilst Jordan Mustard is unlikely to figure, work commitments preventing him training.

Brooks is still keen to hear from local players keen to step up the leagues as Mustard did so successfully last season.

From overseas Brooks has recruited New Zealander Roydon Miller (second/back row) and Australian prop Lachlan Brown-Bates. Will Swart, a South African flanker/hooker starting a UEA degree, and hooker Jake Callender from Fullerians have also signed.

In the backs, Freddie Henley-Hunter and Will Quinn have rejoined, though Quinn’s availability could be restricted.

The Riley brothers Hal (centre) and Jim (winger/full back) have joined from Holt, with winger Dan Smith (Winchester) and Australian winger/full back Adam Howell other newcomers.

The build up included a practice match win against Kettering, both sides trying out different combinations. This Saturday the Vikings and Raiders visit Richmond for matches against the Championship team’s third and fourth XVs.

“These will be hard games and a great opportunity for players to put themselves forward for selection,” added Brooks.

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