North Walsham are ‘battle-hardened’ ahead of London One North season opener at home against Colchester

James Riley, who was captain of Holt last season, has joined North Walsham. Picture: Stuart Young

James Riley, who was captain of Holt last season, has joined North Walsham. Picture: Stuart Young - Credit: Archant

North Walsham begin their second season under head of rugby James Brooks with a home clash against Colchester.

The Vikings are looking to improve on last season's fourth-place finish in London One North and begin against the Essex side, who have come down from National Three.

Former Northampton Saints and England Sevens back Brooks is confident pre-season has knocked his squad into good shape for the opener at Scottow though.

'We played Richmond's third team at their place last weekend because I knew they have a huge amount of depth and I knew it would be a tough game,' the Vikings boss said.

'We ended up coming out of that 24-all so I think we're certainly battle-hardened for a real tough, physical challenge.'

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Brooks has brought in Johnny Marsters, who captained the All Blacks at U21 level, and former Wasps lock Joe Beardshaw as forwards coaches.

There are a number of changes to the playing squad as well, with Ethan Benny and Jono Lawson returning to New Zealand, second row Chris Kent leaving for Sudbury and John Younie joining Bury St Edmunds.

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Influential fly-half Matt Hodgson is out for the season with a knee injury but from overseas Brooks has recruited New Zealander second or back row forward Roydon Miller and Australian prop Lachlan Brown-Bates. Will Swart, a South African flanker or hooker starting a UEA degree, has also joined as has hooker Jake Callender from Fullerians.

In the backs. Freddie Henley-Hunter and Will Quinn have rejoined, brothers Hal (centre) and Jim Riley (winger or full-back) have joined from Holt and Norfolk-born winger Dan Smith from Winchester, as well as Australian back Adam Howell.

Brooks is relishing his second season at Walsham as well, continuing: 'It's a family club and for me it's about getting more players into the club and not just from a first team point of view, that's minis and juniors as well.

'We want to steady where we are as far as being the best side in Norfolk but there are goals to get back up the leagues and hopefully we're going in the right direction.'

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