Ludlow are stuck in the middle of a regional divide
Ludlow Rugby Club head coach Mikey Jones has expressed his disappointment at the regionalisation of Midlands One West for the beginning of the 2020/21 season.
With the game at levels five and six set for a return on October 10, should there be no spikes or second waves of the coronavirus, the league have detailed changes in how the season will play out.
England Rugby have declared that the division, of 14 clubs, will split regionally into two groups of seven to allow teams to play against closer opposition home and away earlier in the season, to minimise travel concerns in a bid to increase safety.
They will then play home and away in the other group, later in the season, to complete the full quota of fixtures in Midlands One West.
But Ludlow, who have been pitted with Shropshire rivals Whitchurch, find themselves in the middle of the average mileage used to split the division and, in turn, will not face as many short trips in the first half of the campaign as they would like.
“To be honest I’m not very happy with the split,” Jones said. “We’re stuck with Lichfield, Sutton Coldfield and Stoke. Hereford won’t be in our league, Droitwich won’t be, neither will Worcester. A lot of closer teams won’t be in our league.
“As a coach I’m not really happy, but if that’s the way it’s got to be then that’s the way.
“They’ve gone on some sort of average miles and by the looks of it we’re sat in the middle of it.”
The Linney men finished a highly creditable seventh in their first season back at level six last season.
That was mostly thanks to highly impressive home form that saw them claim eight victories and a draw from nine games, though Jones admits plenty of thinking has gone into improving the ‘atrocious’ away record.
And Ludlow, who returned to fitness training last week, are looking for yet more improvement with four or five unnamed new signings strengthening them, particularly in the forwards department.
“We kept all our players which is always positive and gained four or five new players which is superb,” Jones said. “We bolstered the side and hopefully that will push our squad on which is good news. They’re training with us, but haven’t put pen to paper yet so I’d better not say their names.
“We definitely hope they will help us. We’ve added in the forwards really, a bit more weight in the forwards and competition to make them play for their places.”
The head coach added: “We’ll give anybody a run for their money at home, it doesn’t matter who it is. Our away form was atrocious.
“I asked the players why at the end of last season. We try to play a really open game of rugby and maybe it is too much.
“We go away with the attitude of there is no expectation, let’s just chuck the ball around, and we let the opposition get points.
“When you’re at home you are stronger. We’re going to become more tactical in away games, pinpoint different strengths of the opposition and try to nullify them.”
Ludlow’s return to the division came with memorable victories against fancied outfits Whitchurch and Hereford.
“A lot of teams are probably going to look at us and think if we get our away form sorted we’ll be a contender,” said Jones. “Me as a coach and our players’ ambition is to go up one more.
“We played all of these sides last season and we competed very closely with near enough all of them. We beat most of them and came very close in games we lost.
“I genuinely believe we are good enough to be around that top four mark.”