NORTH Midlands coach Dan Protherough admits that his side will face a tough task to reclaim their place in the top flight of the County Championship when they begin their Bill Beaumont Cup Second Division campaign this weekend.
North Midlands were relegated last season just 12 months after the clinched promotion to the First Division of the competition and now find themselves in a competitive Second Division South group alongside Surrey, Devon and Somerset.
Surrey are first up on Saturday May 9 at Stourbridge’s Stourton Park having stepped up from the County Championship Shield, the competition they won last season.
“Hopefully we can win promotion again but we are in a very tough group,” said Protherough, who is also director of rugby at National Three Midlands club Bromsgrove.
“We’ve got an away game against Devon at Brixham but two home matches, both at Stourbridge, against Surrey and Somerset.
“Surrey come to us as a bit of an unknown quantity but, from the team list we have seen, they seem to have based their team around the Dorking club who had a good season in National Two South.
“They have come up from the Shield competition which they won last season but our aim is to get off to a good start to set the tone for the rest of the tournament.”
North Midlands cannot select from Moseley or Worcester Warriors, their two most senior clubs, as players from Greene King IPA Championship clubs are not eligible for the County Championship.
But the squad, which North Midlands will name on Thursday evening, is expected to include player from the Bromsgrove, Coventry, Birmingham & Solihull, Luctonians and Bromsgrove clubs.
With Birmingham & Solihull and Luctonians locked in relegation battles until the last weekend in April, North Midlands have not played a warm-up match but will have had two training sessions before they face Surrey.
Fly-half Tom Jones of Luctonians and scrum-half Jacob Nash of Stourbridge are likely to be in the senior squad having impressed playing in this season’s National Under 20 Championship.