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Tonbridge Juddians RFC

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Pre-season journey to National 1 debut

8th September 2020

It’s been over two months since our senior sides began their pre-season. It started on the normal date but looked a whole lot different. It started in groups of six, socially distanced. Then we moved into some touch rugby training in slightly larger groups. Now we have the green light for some limited contact training giving some much-needed variation to an already elongated pre-season. 

For a side recently promoted to the third tier of English rugby looking to mix it with some of the biggest and best clubs around the uncertainty around the situation could be a distraction. However, having caught up with 1st XV Head Coach Pete Dankert, he thinks that focus will not be an issue for his side because the challenge is so great to stay in National 1 every moment of pre-season is vital.

The squad is currently modulating their load with enough time off to make sure things stay fresh. The focus started off with fitness and closed skills as that was pretty much all that could be done safely. The squad is now reaping the rewards of all that hard work as more is possible. Dankert hopes that all those hard yards will pay off later in the year when we get back out on the field.

Now that more training is possible, in terms of line out and minimal contact, the possibilities have increased. Dankert admitted there was some understandable rustiness in the initial line out session. Which is probably not surprising given the last line out thrown was over 150 days ago! He is sure things will improve over the coming weeks as the players get back up to speed with those nuances of the game once more. 

However, all the fitness and skill work prior to this point has brought its results, believes Dankert. Taking the squad’s game to the next level will be key going into this season so some time to focus on fitness and closed skills is key. As a result, of the challenge the squad faces all the work the players are doing to stay focused has to be commended. 

The squad has welcomed a number of new faces which we will be getting to know better in the coming weeks and months. We also look forward to fully welcome them as TJs when they don the shirt for the first time. Dankert hopes they will add quality as well as depth to and already settled squad. Freshness is always welcome, and so far, their integration looks to be going well. However, the true testament to this squad is its settled nature.

The overwhelming majority of last years’ squad re-signed for the new season with only a handful departures mostly down to retirements. TJs now also boasts a number of players with over a hundred caps, the most recent of which to reach this milestone is big Dave Irvine. These club stalwarts will continue to lead from the front at a new level of rugby.

Having such a tight-knit squad is a testament to what the club has built and continues to look to build. We still have little idea what the season may or may not look like and when it may start. However, what we do know is that we have a squad working hard and slowly building to put on a show when rugby returns to The Slade.

Over the coming weeks and months, we hope to bring you some more interviews with coaches and players as well as all the news from the rest of the club. This is an exciting year for the club so keep your ear to ground for all the relevant information.

David Challis - part of our new Communications/PR team led by Andy MacDonald

David played for TJ's Academy, is a graduate from Exeter University and is a freelance sports journalist, with a specific passion for rugby. David writes for The Last Word on rugby and others

And if you have some news, insights or comments you want to share, even photographs, then please email them to results@tjrfc.co.uk

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