BRIDGWATER & Albion Rugby Club get their South West 1 West season off with a home fixture against Thornbury at College Way on Saturday (3pm), writes Richard Walsh.

Albion’s director of rugby Geoff Sluman said: “Pre-season has gone well and we are really looking forward to the start of the new season.

“We have played warm-up games against Exmouth and Taunton Warriors, who won the Somerset Cup at the end of last season, so have had some really testing conditions – which is exactly what we wanted.

“In addition, we had a joint training session with Wiveliscombe RFC; that was very beneficial as it combined things like live scrummaging and then finished with 40 minutes of match condition game.

“The guys not involved with the first team for our opening league game will also have an away pre-season match at Tiverton 2nd XV as our 2nds do not have a league fixture until the following week.

“In an ideal world, we would have liked one more fixture as a warm-up but it has not proved easy to find opposition in the pre-season, so we are probably a little bit ‘under-cooked’ in terms of game time.

“However, the upside to that is that we will have fresh players who are really keen to get on the pitch and play.”

Albion finished in fourth place last season and, looking ahead to this year’s league as a whole, Sluman said: “Every team has ambition to improve during the close season so we won’t know how all that will fall to ground until after the first four or five league matches.

“Last season proved that conventional logic does not always ring true.

“Historically, you would expect teams that come into our league from the league above will be strong and the teams that get promoted from the league below may struggle but that definitely was not the case last year.

“St Ives, who came up from the league below, finished in sixth place and above Hornets who came into the league by being relegated from the league above.

“Keynsham, who came into the league from the league below finished in ninth place and above Hornets as well.

“We lost some very good teams from our league at the end of last year – Cullompton and Teignmouth, both of whom were good sides but still found themselves going down.

“What it all says to us is that you can’t take anything for granted, improving is just not enough and we have to improve more than everyone else.”

Regarding Saturday’s opponents, Sluman said: “We have played Thornbury many times and know it will be a competitive match.

“Our team has prepared well, the coaches and the players have all worked hard so we will go into the game full of confidence.”

ALBION'S fellow South West 1 West side North Petherton have an away fixture to start their 2019/20 campaign.

Pethy – who finished last season just behind their local rivals, in fifth place – head to Crediton for Saturday’s opener, with their first home match of the new season being against Devonport Services the following Saturday, September 14.

North Petherton Ladies get their new season up and running this Sunday, with a home match against Newton Abbot in Women’s NC 1 South West.

Pethy were beaten 48-5 by Bath in last Saturday’s Webb Ellis Somerset County Women’s Cup final.