Familiar foe South Woodham Ferrers pose tough season opener as Diss return to step six

Diss on their way to a 27-20 home win over South Woodham Ferrers at Mackenders last season. Picture:

Diss on their way to a 27-20 home win over South Woodham Ferrers at Mackenders last season. Picture: Diss RFC - Credit: Archant

Diss return to step six of the rugby pyramid tomorrow after three seasons of battling their way back to London One North.

Two strong seasons in London 2NE finished in second place in 2015 and third in 2016 before cracking the challenge in the last campaign and winning all but two of their matches to take the title by 15 points.

'I think it was a great season for the team and the squad, they were delighted with what they achieved,' director of rugby Alistair Shepherd said.

'It may have looked easy but actually most of the games were pretty tough, we had opponents come back at us hard in a lot of games and we managed to hold out.

'On the front foot when we had the advantage we managed to push the score along nicely, so we were very pleased to have come out on top as champions and be promoted. We're certainly looking forward to the new season but I'm absolutely sure it will be very tough.'

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The campaign starts with a trip to Essex to take on a familiar foe in South Woodham Ferrers, who have also been promoted, with Diss narrowly winning both of last season's encounters, 27-20 at home and 22-20 away.

The south Norfolk side are without winger Phil Lelievre and fly-half Sean McClure though, who have both returned to New Zealand, with the latter set to return in October.

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Popular number eight Kimi Latu is also playing his last game before returning to New Zealand, leaving Diss in need of some reinforcements as they try to establish themselves back alongside North Walsham at step six.

'It's going to be a tester for us,' Shepherd continued. 'We know that they were very close to us all season last year, they have a big pack which they use to their full advantage and we will need to front up on the day.

'I don't think it's going to be easy at all, they were promoted last year by the team that they had played in the play-offs not actually going up because they won but because the team they were playing used an ineligible player.

'They were planning on developing and after being promoted I'm sure they will have strengthened so they'll be looking to certainly finish no lower than mid-table I would think.'

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