EASTLEIGH Pirates will travel to Havant in a friendly on Saturday (3pm), as rugby is finally ready to commence after the enforced break due to COVID-19.

The sport had been one of the last to get back underway, due to the inability to make the scrum and maul safe, with players in such close proximity.

However, the RFU has now moved the community game into stage five of its return to rugby, meaning games can now take place, albeit with some law adaptations.

The scrum and maul will for now be outlawed, with free-kicks and penalties replacing them but it does mean Eastleigh head coach Will Croker will finally get to see his new charges in action.

“The law changes do make sense in the short term,” said Croker “However, we are all looking forward to the day that rugby can return to the spectacle that we all love, the game for all shapes and sizes.”

Croker has not opted for a gentle introduction for his new-look squad however, taking on a Havant team who were promoted at the end of last season to London and South West Premier, fully two levels higher than Eastleigh.

He added: “We have had a good few months working together and introducing a few new faces as well as a new game plan and tactics.

“None of us are under any illusion what a tough game it will be against Havant on their 4G surface but we felt with a return fixture to take place on the January 16, it would give us a really good feel for how we are developing and how much we can improve in four weeks.”

Eastleigh’s new coaching team includes Kevin Cottrell as senior coach and Karl Rand as a technical analyst.

On the playing front, lock James Griffiths has joined from Bournemouth. Josh Richardson joined after moving to the area from Devon.

Ashley Paterson, another player with National League experience, has bolstered the ranks, as has George Cottrell and Billy Maidment, who have also made the short journey to join from Bournemouth.

Matthew Horne, a powerful number eight that has played for Basingstoke and Newbury, is also raring to get started

“We have tried to blend in boys that we know can enhance the playing group, while also adding good human qualities too,” said Croker.

“We were lucky to inherit a strong and ambitious squad and we hope with these few additions we can take the club to a new level.”