Blues head coach McAvoy in confident mood ahead of new campaign
Newbury Blues head coach James McAvoy is hoping his side can build on last term’s strong finish ahead of the new season.
Blues recovered from losing their first two games of the 2022/23 campaign, winning five of their final six and finishing third, just missing out on promotion.
While Blues will remain at the same level, a league restructuring means McAvoy’s men can look forward to meeting a host of new teams in the Regional 2 South Central division, including London Irish Wild Geese and Jersey.
Blues concluded their pre-season programme last week, beating Rams Centaurs 57-15 and testing themselves against Oxford Harlequins, and McAvoy is confident his side are well-placed to have a successful season.
“Overall, we’re feeling really positive,” he said.
“We had 31 players in the game against Rams Centaurs, including seven new players.
“We’re excited to get going now.”
McAvoy has managed to keep hold of most of last season’s squad while adding a number of new faces, with a selection of youngsters set to make the step up from the Colts side and a handful of more experienced players signing up from elsewhere.
One particualry exciting new addition is Marlborough’s Ed Wrench, who is set for a spell at Monks Lane before he heads to Australia to play in the Shield.
McAvoy said: “It looks promising.
“We’ve had such a strong set-up with the junior teams, so we wanted to make sure we could give a number of 18 and 19-year-olds opportunities to step up.
“We’ve brought some boys in to bolster the outside backs, so we’ve added even more competition for places.
“Ed approached us because he wanted some experience of men’s rugby, he’s learned the system really well, he’s a solid scrummager and we really think he’s one to watch out for.”
The RFU have introduced new tackle laws which players will be getting to grips with in the opening weeks of the season, and McAvoy feels his side can use the changes to their advantage.
“The boys have worked really hard on their technique and what we’ve been asking for defensively,” he said.
“It’s a learning curve for the players and the referees, but we feel pretty secure in what we’re doing and we’re confident we can benefit from the new rules.”
Last season, a succession of injuries meant McAvoy was forced to call on a number of younger players and, while that wasn’t ideal at the time, he believes his squad’s strength-in-depth can be a real asset this term.
He said: “We all knew that, at times last season, some boys were getting Blues caps probably before they were absolutely ready.
“That said, the experience those boys gained can only make them better and more competitive, and as a squad we’ll benefit from that.”
Blues, who have enjoyed a number of training sessions with London Scottish prop Joe Rees this summer, will begin their campaign this Saturday with the visit of local rivals Reading.
And McAvoy is relishing the prospect of an opening day derby and is confident his side can kick-off with a win.
“It’s a perfect game to start off with, we can’t wait,” he said.
“I won’t need to say too much, we’ll be in front of our home crowd against our local rivals, so we’ll be really motivated.
“Reading have a relatively physical pack and a number of good youngsters but we’re prepared for them.
“We feel confident we can get off to a strong start.”