ROYAL Wootton Bassett team manager George Loughlin hopes his men can at least match last season’s club-best finish as they embark on the new South West One East campaign tomorrow.

A promising 2017-18 campaign saw Bassett finish sixth in the division, winning half of their 26 matches.

While Loughlin is unsure they possess the strength to put themselves in the thick of the promotion battle in what is a strong section, he hopes the trend will continue upwards at Ballards Ash, with Oxford Harlequins the visitors in tomorrow’s opener.

“Our target must be to do at least as well as last season,’’ said Loughlin.

“We had a highest-ever finish of sixth and it’s got to be the plan to do no worse than that again.

“I don’t think we can be considered candidates for promotion.

“Newbury were quite unlucky to get relegated last season so they would have to be favourites to go straight back up and then you have the next two of Banbury and Chippenham there too.

“But a little bit of progression is what we’re looking for. Ultimately we want to be in that higher league and it’s about building towards that and being in good position if and when we get there.’’

Bassett have retained the bulk of last year’s squad, including skipper Dave Hogg, who has handed on those duties to Gavin Ougan, fly-half Ieuan Clements stepping in for vice-captaincy duties.

And Oxford Harlequins, boosted by the summer arrival of arrival of utility back Antonio Turetta from Italian club Arieti Rugby, as well as the return of back row Joe Nalewabau, promise an extensive opening examination tomorrow.

“They appear to have recruited heavily and we will expect them to be very tough,’’ added Loughlin.

“They finished just above us last season so it’s a really tough start, albeit with home advantage.

“Pre-season has been good, the highlight being our games against Corsham, who were a strong side that we narrowly edged, even though we were not at full strength.’’