The RFU have finalised the composition of National Two South for the 2020-21 season and, among their 15 opponents, Raiders will be facing four teams for the first time.
Leicester Lions and their near neighbours Hinckley are two of those new sides for Jordan Reynolds and his men, along with Devon-outfit Barnstaple and Esher Rugby Club in Surrey.
‘You look through all the teams and there are some very good sides in there – it is a very strong division,’ said Guernsey director of rugby Reynolds.
‘Last year it was not as strong, there were a couple of teams who were getting heavily beaten and have now dropped down, but next season it is mainly sides who have done very well at that level and the sides who are coming up with us are very good too.
‘Redruth and Henley were both pushing for the top two last season – they finished third and fourth in the end – so they are both on the up from when we last played them while Esher had been in National One for as long as I can remember, so I’d expect them to be decent.
‘But while it’s going to be another tough league, we are definitely going to have a better squad this time around and we have made huge improvements since when we were last in National Two, using last season as a springboard to get back there – we have learnt a lot of lessons.’
Although closer than the two Leicestershire clubs as the crow flies, Reynolds added that Redruth in Cornwall will likely be the longest journey but he remains hopeful that, unlike during his side’s first foray into National Two, Raiders will be able to use different airports to reduce the number of stay-overs they have to endure.
‘We hope we can fly into Exeter, Bristol, Manchester this time because we are trying to restrict how many stay-overs we have down to about four, but we just don’t know what flights will be going by then,’ he said.
The Guernsey Rugby Club have been working with the Sports Commission and the States in trying to assess how and when they can return to training in these testing times.
Reynolds reported that some one-to-one coaching can get started and he hopes that by the beginning of July they might be able to do some work in small groups.
‘That’s my wishlist at the moment. We just have to see how things progress,’ he said.
‘Between all the sports we are trying to work on a return-to-play schedule, but everything is still about people’s safety at the moment.’
National Two South 2020-21:
Barnes, Barnstaple, Bury St Edmunds, Canterbury, Clifton, Dings Crusaders, Esher, GUERNSEY RAIDERS, Henley, Hinckley, Leicester Lions, Old Albanian, Redruth, Rochford Hundred, Westcliff, Worthing.