SWINDON St George kick off their season this weekend against Somerset Vikings at Greenbridge Road with a new look side.
Approximately 40 per cent of their side for this season are new faces, many recruited from the local union sides. That includes the Callum and Aaron Watkins brothers from Cricklade and Matt Dickens, Supermarine’s leading try scorer last season.
Supermarine are well represented in the squad and St George have been training as group with the South Marston club to stay fit.
For pre-season the Greenbridge Road side have been preparing since mid-March and warmed up with games against Exeter and a cross-code fixture with groundsharers Swindon RFC.
St George coach Carl Baker is hoping for an improvement on the club’s West of England Premier performance from last season. After winning their opening game Swindon failed to secure another victory all season.
St George have had a useful pre-season. A good performance in defeat against a strong Exeter Centurions side was encouraging then St George saw off Swindon in a cross-codes game for the first time in five years.
It is that result that makes Baker believe his team are in a good place for this year.
“That result has given me confidence, we’ve never turned them over before, and to do it and to it by three tries over the top, and we were without a couple of key players,” Baker said.
“It’s one of the best groups we’ve had, without a doubt, we played a warm-up game against Exeter and when they saw the size of our boys they were astounded.
“We had a mixed bag last season, but I’d like a minimum 50 per cent wins, to stay unbeaten at home and collect as many points away from home as possible.”
Captain George Cowley was in agreement with his coach, he believes the dramatic overhaul at the club puts them in very different position to last season.
He said: “At the end of last season, we were at a stage where we had eight or so regulars, surviving on temporary players stepping in. We made an active decision to take the Swindon St Goerge core into Supermarine, played and trained out of there all season, really solidified the roots and actively recruited from there and the other union clubs.
“I see it as a season of enhanced growth. This Saturday we’re selecting from a squad of 25 despite six being injured or unavailable. It’s not just a rugby club, we’re a group of very good mates playing with each other and for each other, that makes a good side. I’m not expecting top of the table but we’re attracting players week on week.”
For Saturday’s kick off against Somerset Cowley is not expecting an easy rise but believes his team are more than capable.
“I’m expecting a high collision element in the game, with a lot of intensity at the contact point, I’m expecting them to bring a very well drilled side up, it’s the first game of the season so they’ll be up for it. We wouldn’t be putting a side out there for a kicking and we’re ready that’s for certain.”