Following the abrupt end to the rugby season on 16 March, the Raiders squad are looking forward to their return to rugby on 2 July, when pre-season training will commence, albeit in accordance with RFU “Return to Rugby” guidelines, requiring training in small groups, with social distancing and Covid-19 precautions in place.
Whilst the squad and the Club will be keen to see these first steps back to rugby, there remains uncertainty as to whether the National 2 South League campaign will get underway at the beginning of September.
Club Chairman, Brian Vincent and Raiders Chairman David Hinchliffe, attended the AGM of the National Clubs Association (NCA), who are the organisers of the league, on 14 June. At the meeting, key points arising are summarised as follows;
* League fixtures for the coming season are still awaited and are usually published about 10-13 weeks before the season begins.
* With Premiership rugby not due to resume until 15 August, the prospect of National League and Community competitive rugby starting 2 weeks later at the beginning of September is unlikely, although all continue to work with the RFU and Government for a start to full contact rugby as soon as possible.
* In the event that the start of National league rugby is delayed until after the beginning of September, work is ongoing as to how a potentially shortened league program might be finished.
* Consultation continues with regard to a reorganization of adult male rugby leagues with firm proposals due to go to the RFU Council before the start of the season, for adoption. Any changes are likely to be implemented for the 2021/22 season, with the favoured change at present for the National Leagues being 14 club leagues (rather than the present 16 club leagues), with 1 League at National 1 (as at present) and 3 at level 4 (being one more than now).
This would mean 56 Clubs in the National Leagues in the future, rather than the 48 at present. This would mean relegation at the end of the coming season from National 2, South and North, being most unlikely. One should remember, the Raider finished 9th in National 2 South in 2019/20, ranking them the joint 49th team in the RFU adult male competition structure (12 in the Premiership, 12 in the Championship, 16 in National 1 and 9th in National 2, jointly with the 9th placed Club in National 2 North).
* The new Chairman of the NCA was confirmed as John Inverdale (of TV fame). A long-serving member of Esher rugby club. John will in future represent the NCA clubs as their RFU representative on the RFU’s decision making Council, where it is hoped he will be able to champion the role and standing of National league clubs and their rugby, with greater recognition for their part in serving the game, player, coach and referee development.
Whilst we look forward to welcoming back the Raiders squad to pre-season training on 2 July, for those interested, the attached NCA Secretary’s report on last season is informative and a good read.
For those keen to come along and watch some of the Raiders and other teams “Return to Rugby” in the coming weeks, please keep a lookout for announcements we hope to make in the near future confirming the re-opening of the Club and availability of some much-awaited refreshments with like-minded (albeit socially distanced) rugby friends.