Blues skipper Thorne looking forward to new season and a host of new opponents
Newbury Blues captain Dan Thorne is hoping his side can kick on from last season’s strong finish and challenge towards the top end of the table this term.
Blues, who beat Rams Centaurs 57-15 in their first pre-season fixture at Monks Lane on Saturday, will compete in a new league but will remain at the same level when the season begins in September.
And experienced fly half Thorne admits he’s delighted to be back and has been impressed by some of his side’s new recruits.
“We’re really looking forward to the new season,” he said.
“We’ve had a good pre-season so far and I’m really excited by how things are looking in training, some of the new lads have been great.”
Blues, who recovered from losing their first two league games to finish third last season, will meet a host of new teams including Chichester, Farnham, Guildford, Winchester and London Irish Wild Geese.
Following the league’s restructuring, Blues can look forward to taking on eight new teams this term, with just Witney, Tottonians and Reading remaining from last season.
One particularly eye-catching fixture will see Blues travel to Jersey in March – and Thorne is relishing the prospect of testing himself against different opposition.
He said: “It’s always nice to play some new teams and, of course, we’re all really looking forward to Jersey.
“The first half of the season will have a lot of challenges, but it’s also exciting.”
Like a lot of teams across the UK, Blues endured a difficult pre-season last year, with the hot and dry weather leading to the RFU cancelling games nationwide in August to ensure player safety.
As a result, Blues came into the campaign a little undercooked but finished the season strongly, winning six of their last seven league games.
And Thorne is hoping a different warm-up campaign this time around – with rugby players amongst a minority of people thankful for this summer’s wetter weather – will leave Blues well-placed to make a fast start this term.
“We had a slow start last year, so we’ve done a bit more contact in training – the weather has definitely helped,” he said.
“Hopefully we’ll be firing for our first league fixtures.”
Head coach James McAvoy – heading into his second full season in the hotseat at Monks Lane – has always given his squad the freedom to express themselves on and off the pitch, with players invited to share their opinions pre, post and in-game.
Thorne said: “Macca has always been good at giving us the freedom to express ourselves and play the game we want to.”
Thorne and his side will begin the season proper with the visit of local rivals Reading on September 2 and the skipper is confident Blues, who suffered a succession of injuries last season, can have another strong campaign.
“Injuries really tested our depth last season, so hopefully we’ll benefit from the experience some of the lads developed,” he said.
“We want to take a step forward and really enjoy our rugby.
“If we do that then hopefully we’ll be towards the top end of the league.”