PLYMOUTH Albion head coach Kieran Hallett believes he is going into the new campaign with a stronger squad than the one that finished the 2016-17 season.
Albion ended last term in superb fashion by winning their last 13 matches to finish second in the National League One table behind unbeaten runaway champions Hartpury College.
Now they are looking to take that next step and get back into the Championship again.
‘There are a lot of teams targeting promotion this year because no-one has come down from the Championship,’ Hallett told me.
‘All I can say at this point is our squad is stronger than it was last year.
‘We have lost a couple of big characters in the dressing room, which does affect things, but last year is last year and it doesn’t really affect anything that is happening right now.
‘We are just looking at things week by week and just trying to improve the group of players we have got.
‘We have got some very good Chiefs youngsters with us.
‘There is more competition for places now and it will be interesting to see how a lot of the guys react to it.
‘A lot of them played week in and week out for us last year and did very, very well, but without the competition for places, but that has certainly changed in the backs, and we have got a lot of very, very good backs.
‘We have maybe lost a bit of depth up front, with players leaving (Tom Cowan-Dickie, Rupert Cooper and Nile Dacres) and not really having the budget to bring new guys in, but that competition for places is certainly there across the board, and our squad size has increased.
‘I think we had 24 last year and we are above 30 now, when everyone is here, so that is good.’
Trying to keep people’s feet on the ground ahead of the new campaign, Hallett said: ‘Yes, we had a great season last year, but I think a lot of people still need to remember that we are only 18 months out of administration, and that still creates a lot of issues.
‘There are other teams in our league going out and recruiting, old, big-name players from the Premiership, but we don’t have the funds to do that.
‘The standard of rugby in National One is going up and up, and it is going to be a tough league.’