EASTLEIGH Pirates begin their league campaign on Saturday after 18 months without competitive rugby.

The Pirates begin their London Two South West season with an away trip to Twickenham, as they look to find their feet under the coaching team of Will Croker and Kevin Cotterell.

The two experienced coaches actually started with the Bishopstoke Road club in the summer of 2020 but with all of the pandemic sanctions wiping out the last season, this is the first chance the pair have to see their charges in league action.

“It has felt like a long time coming,” said head coach Croker. ”We have worked hard in training but nothing can prepare you to quite the pitch that league rugby does.

“Eighteen months has been a very long 'pre-season' but we feel really well placed to mount, what we hope will be, a serious challenge to those sides at the top of the table.

“We have seen good results against Chichester and Havant in recent months and training numbers have been excellent but that will count for nothing if we are slow out the blocks on Saturday.”

The side has new faces in it, with George Cotterell, Michael Longyear, Matthew Horne, Toby Warburton, Dylan Read, Simon Morgan and Michael West all set to make their league debuts.

Also back in the side after several years in the Caribbean is Phil Baldwin who will slot back in at fly-half. New captain Matt Lovell moves to outside centre to form a fresh midfield combination.

“We understand that all the clubs in our league are in the same position as us, having played very little rugby in such a long time,” said backs coach Coterell.

“However, we are excited to see how the boys gel together over the coming weeks. We have a huge number of players that are in their early 20s and the future looks bright, now we just need to find the performance to get us off and running.”