Bury St Edmunds and Colchester get ready for battle in National 2 and National 3 respectively
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
The Rugby Union World Cup may be less than two weeks from kicking off, but away from the glitz and glamour of the sport’s biggest event, history is set to be made by two of the region’s clubs, this afternoon.
Bury St Edmunds make their bow at National League 2 level, having won the National 3 title in April, while Colchester, for whom a draw was enough in their dramatic final-day title-decider at Eton Manor, begin life in National 3.
The new divisions represent the highest level of rugby ever played by the respective clubs, Bury beginning with a tough-looking home game against Bishop’s Stortford, at the Haberden, and Colchester hosting Gravesend at Mill Road.
It may be a few levels away from the elite and the bright lights of Twickenham, but the anticipation is just as high and has certainly created a buzz among the respective squads.
Colchester coach Anthony O’Riordan guided his squad to the London 1 North title last season, and is ready for a whole new challenge this term, going into the campaign with no fear.
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“As a coach, this is my biggest and most exciting test,” O’Riordan said.
“I just can’t wait to get going. But it’s not about me, I’m along for the ride, it’s about the players and the club.
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“As coach I have no fears about what we face. We have the players. The only sleep I will lose in this league is over my selection of the team.
“But that’s the way it is, selection is always tough.
“I’m not worried who we play, my job is to give the team the toolbox to face the challenges ahead.
“Once they are over that white line anyhow, there is not much I and my coaches can do.”
O’Riordan may well look to Bury director of rugby, Gavin Hogg, for inspiration, the Irishman playing an integral part among the backroom staff as the Wolfpack won their second promotion in three seasons, in April.
Back then, it was a 61-10 victory at home to Gravesend on a sunny spring day, a success that attracted more than 1,000 to the Haberden, which is something Hogg would like to see replicated today.
“One of the things the players notice during their down time period between arriving at the ground and kick-off is how everyone wants to be a part of what we are doing,” said Hogg.
“It gives the players a massive lift and the guys talk about it every game at the Haberden, how home advantage gives them that extra 2-3%.
“When the town and community gets behind us it gives us that extra momentum to go forward and hopefully we can pick up from where we left off, on the final day of last season when we had 1,500 supporters cheering us on.”
Kick-off at Colchester is at 3pm, however the club house is open before the game begins. Admission is free for members, while non-members will need to purchase a programme at £5 each to gain entry.
At Bury, admission is £8 for adults, while OAP and under-18 tickets are £5. Under-12s go free. The bar opens at 1.30pm. Kick-off at the Haberden is 3pm.
For interviews with Gavin Hogg, Anthony O’Riordan and Bury team manager Mark Williams, see today’s EADT