Head coach Ben Buxton wants youth players to show they are ready for senior action when Newark Rugby Club’s pre-season begins next week.
The club is preparing for a new campaign in the Midlands Division Two East (North) after finishing fourth last season.
Buxton said he had been mostly pleased with the progress the side made in the division, despite a poor run of form in the new year that scuppered hopes of promotion.
“Fourth was quite respectable and you could see the progression through the season from the year before, when we finished sixth,” he said.
“I was slightly disappointed by our form after Christmas, but we showed how far we had come in our final game against Dronfield compared with our defeat against them at the start of the season.
“We need to keep doing what we are doing because we are improving as a group all the time.
“We are trying to blend youth and experience, and give people who are good enough a chance to prove themselves in the first-team.”
Buxton said defensive work was an area that had hugely improved in the past season.
“The way we have defended has been very encouraging in recent months,” he said.
“We are getting better at defending under the posts.
“We are able to compete on our own line for ten to 15 phases and march them back to the 22.
“We are achieving what we have been working towards in our training sessions.”
He said there was an opportunity for younger players to come through with key players Aloesi Waqalevu, Matt Clark and Dave Shiels, last year’s player of the season, among those stepping away from first-team action.
“I go by the philosophy that if you are good enough then you are old enough,” Buxton said..
“We work closely with the second-team. I speak regularly with Richard Byron (second-team coach) about the players who are coming through.
“We ask how they are performing and who we need to look out for.
“It is something we are going to continue into the new season.
“There are some players who have left because they are moving away, and some who are retiring because of other commitments outside rugby.
“From past experience, you never know until you get to the end of pre-season what will happen and who you will get (to play).”
Pre-season plans are taking shape with a home training game for all players against Tupton on August 18 and a return to Hinckley on August 25.
The fixtures for the new season have been released, with Newark starting their campaign against newly-promoted Ashby at Kelham Road on September 8.
That will followed by a trip to Dronfield and another home game, against Ilkeston, at the end of September.
Newark’s much-awaited derbies against Southwell are scheduled for December 8 at Park Lane and March 30 at Kelham Road.