Haverhill RFC have been dealt a blow after an injury saw Adrian Cooper retire ahead of a Suffolk Plate preliminary round tie at home to Hadleigh on Saturday (2.30pm).
Although they go into the match without the benefit of having had any warm-up matches, head coach Martin Hughes feels pre-season has thus far been a good one — despite the one major setback.
He said: “Pre-season has been good. I’ve had in excess of 20 players turning up every week.
“I think I had 22 last night. They’ve had a good pre-season and we’ve been working on the more technical side of rugby.
“Unfortunately we lost (second row) Adrian Cooper the week before last to a training ground accident, so he is out for the season and he has called his retirement as well.
“He had a clash of heads and fractured his eye socket and his cheek bone.
“Unfortunately he wanted one last season because he is the wrong side of 40, like me, but that has put the kibosh on that, so we have lost an experienced player and a good player.
“We have got the usual suspects, like Brodie Patrick and Joe Wilson and a couple of the younger boys who are playing, but he is a big loss to me.”
Should Haverhill defeat Hadleigh, who play in the Greene King IPA Eastern Counties Division Two South, they will face a quarter-final at home the following Saturday against Aldeburgh and Thorpeness.
If Haverhill lose to Hadleigh, Hughes has already got a home friendly lined up against Newmarket, so the players will be certain of some match time whatever happens.
Julian North has taken over the captaincy this season from Adam Hunt, who remains as a player, and will also be the assistant coach to Hughes.
“He is my age but what he brings is commitment and experience,” said Hughes.
“He is mainly a back, but as you get older you move forward a bit and he played quite a lot for me in the front row.
The opening round of the Eastern Counties Division Two West season arrives on September 19, when Haverhill take on March Bears, again at their home ground at Castle Playing Fields.
If he can get a settled 15 out onto the pitch each week, Hughes remains confident of enjoying a good season, having finished fourth last time around.
He said: “If we can get consistency and a bit of continuity we’ve got the ability to do well in this league.
“I just need consistency and continuity and a bit of commitment and we will be alright.”