MATLOCK RFC take to the field on Saturday for their first pre-season game as they defend their Matlock Tens Tournament title.
A total of 16 teams will be competing at Cromford Meadows in the tournament with clubs such as Bakewell Mannerians, Chesterfield, Ashbourne, Derby and Burton among those involved.
The venue also hosts the eighth Matlock Beer Festival, with live bands, 40 real ales and ciders, plus a barbecue. The tournament is expected to get under way around 10.30am with the beer festival starting at 12noon.
Among those attending will be special guest Matt Hampson, the former England rugby union prop who was paralysed from the neck down after a scrummage accident in 2005.
He has visited the event before and the club is delighted that he plans to return.
First team coach Alan Johnson has been happy with the progress made so far in pre-season training with the Tens tournament being the initial focus for his players.
He explained: “Training has been going well, we’ve had solid numbers throughout and so now our thoughts turn to the tournament, which we would like to retain after last year’s victory.
“The core lads in the first team squad have all been working really hard, and there are one or two that were on the fringeslast year that are really putting their hands up to hopefully be involved this season.
“We’ve kept all the lads from last year. James Shooter has finished uni now so we hope he can get a job in the area and he keeps playing with us, and there are one or two irons in the fire to add to what we’ve already got.
“We want to play in the same way as last year. It was a project in the making last time, getting the lads to play in a slightly different way, but they wanted to do that and they were very receptive.
“It’s now about understanding when to play that free-flowing rugby and when not to.
“We don’t need to take a cavalier approach all the time.”
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“But they have mature heads on their shoulders and they are not afraid to ask questions to make sure they get it right, which is encouraging, and we’ve got a great atmosphere down there.
“Obviously, we want to win the Tens tournament but I think the teams will be stronger than last time. Of course we want to win but if we can achieve our aims of using the ball well, not giving away soft tries and keeping up our fitness then that will be good to see, from a coach’s point of view.
“It’s a chance to put the club as a whole in the shop window and we hope as many local people as possible come to support both the Tens event and also the Beer Festival.”