WEYMOUTH face a baptism of fire, according to Paul Harding, as they begin life in Southern Counties South with tomorrow’s visit of arch-rivals Dorchester (3pm).
The former enjoyed one of the finest campaigns in the club’s history last term as they breezed to a league and cup double.
However, following their promotion from Dorset & Wilts One South, the seaside outfit will certainly have their work cut out as they bid to consolidate their place in more illustrious surroundings.
Dorchester meanwhile, will be looking to make up for the disappointment of missing out on promotion themselves after they suffered play-off defeat at the hands of Windsor.
For that reason, Harding is anticipating a stern examination at Monmouth Avenue.
The head coach said: “We have worked hard in pre-season and the guys have been made aware that it is going to be a major step up in standard.
“We’ve got a very tough first game against Dorchester as based on last season you would have to say they will be one of the favourites for promotion.
“It’s a local derby against an established side in this league so it’s a baptism of fire for us.
“Hopefully though it will give us an indication of what we need to do to survive in this league.
“I’m not interested in the result, I’m only interested in how we play as that will give me an indication of how the season will go.
“Traditionally it has always been a difficult league to come into. The sides that go up often come straight back down as the gap is so big.
“Having said that, I feel we have got a real hard-working bunch of players and I can’t ask much more from them with what they done over the summer.
“In Dorset & Wilts One South we were a very good side and as the season went on we got better and better. At the end of the season we knew we were too good for that level but this season will be very different. It will be faster, more physical and the opposition will be a lot bigger.
“But we have worked on things that I felt we needed to. We also played Swanage in a friendly and although we lost I was pleased with our defensive systems and the flow of our attacks.”
Harding added: “We have lost a few props.
“Stephan Neethling and Pat Merritt have left, which is a shame, but we have brought in Idris Croft and Tom Smethurst is back from university. Tom is a good talent and it will be interesting to see how he develops.”
Weymouth’s Sam Morris, Gareth Iles and Ian MacConnachie are all unavailable tomorrow while Harry Charles (broken hand) is injured.
* Swanage & Wareham visit Newbury Blues in South West One East (3pm).