Promoted Horsham headed into uncharted waters as they begin life in new division
As preparations ahead of the new season draw to a close, the sense of excitement is palpable as Horsham take steps into London 1 South and the uncharted waters this new league presents.
The squad has been bolstered by several new players - a combination of returnees from university, players joining from other local clubs and talented youngsters stepping up from their hugely successful mini and junior sections.
Combined with the retention of last season's successful squad, Horsham have managed to have a successful summer and the three pre-season games have demonstrated that the coaching staff will face selection dilemmas on a weekly basis.
Whilst many teams boast a combination of youth and experience, Horsham on the other hand have a young squad and whilst many observers will consider this a disadvantage, this youthful squad belies a fiercely competitive spirit, a will to work hard at their game and a rugby nous.
Horsham are under no illusions that this season will be a step up, but they will embrace the challenge wholeheartedly and look to play in a style that is true to their principles of fast attacking rugby.
This year, the Lions will be playing in the Surrey Premier League which promises to test the squad on a weekly basis and provide much needed competition for those players who miss out on selection for the first team.
With teams like Camberley, Cobham, Dorking and Rosslyn Park in the league, the season will certainly demand consistency in availability, training and performance if they are to do well.
With four promoted teams, each with their own aspirations and levels of confidence, a league transfer in the form of HAC and heavily advertised recruitment from the likes of Westcombe Park and Camberley, the challenge is obvious. Combined with the perennial challenge of Medway and some resurgent teams in the forms of Thurrock and Havant, it is without doubt going to provide stern weekly tests.
Horsham start the season with an interesting match up away against Sussex rivals Chichester with whom they have had a fierce rivalry over several seasons but only now returning to play at first team level.
They will additionally renew acquaintances with Dartfordians with whom they have had great matches both at London 3 and London 2 in the past.
Similarly, Horsham will renew acquaintances with Medway. Horsham fierce matches when Medway suffered an administrative relegation a couple of seasons ago. The chance to gauge the development of Horsham as a team in the intervening seasons is a great incentive to perform well against one of the league favourites.
Horsham will understandably be looking to consolidate in the new league, but they believe that they have the ability to cause an upset here or there.
This season will also showcase the good work that has been undertaken at Horsham over the last three to five years including the installation of the artificial grass pitch, the building of new changing rooms, the creation of a new members bar, the development of ladies and girls rugby and the growth of playing numbers across the sections.
All in all, rugby at Horsham is in a vibrant state and now that the season is upon us, it promises to be an exciting season.