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Newbury Blues "ahead of schedule" in pre-season

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Newbury Blues RFC will begin their Regional 2 Tribute South Central season with a long trip to Shipston on Stour on Saturday, September 3.

The following week, the Blues will welcome Stow-on-the-Wold to Monks Lane; head coach James McAvoy says his side are "ahead of schedule" in their preparations.

"It's one of our furthest trips, which poses an interesting psychological test," McAvoy said.

"We're focused on the idea of a 22 round fight across the season, so this will be the first round.

"Like a boxer, we want to come out on the front foot, show our dominance, but also recognise that this is only round one.

"We're excited about the challenge of going away first, when everyone's fresh, so it's a nice opportunity to get that one out the way."

McAvoy, who has previously worked with the London Irish academy, is delighted with how his squad are progressing ahead of the new campaign.

He said: "Training numbers have been fantastic, we've had up to 50 players at training sessions, which is brilliant for this time of the season.

"We've got 10, 12 new boys signing on, which is really promising.

"The boys have taken to the fitness really well, they've actually come into this pre-season a lot sharper and in a lot better shape than they did last year.

"That's meant we've been able to move forward with our shape in attack and defence, which is fantastic."

McAvoy's preparations will be put to the test when Newbury travel to Bournemouth on Saturday, August 6 in their first pre-season game.

The Blues will then host Wimbledon on August 13 as McAvoy looks forward to his first full season in charge.

"Bournemouth have a good reputation, they're in the league above us, that'll be a good first test," McAvoy said.

"Wimbledon are in the same league as Bournemouth, we've specifically tried to pick two teams above us because that's the level we want to be at."

On August 20, Newbury hosts its Scrum in the Sun event, which will feature a friendly against Basingstoke before an intra-club match on August 25.

McAvoy said: "That'll give us the chance to see everyone play and to explore all of our different combinations, after that I hope we'll be fresh, confident and ready."

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