Belsize Park are in uncharted territory after promotion to London leagues
- Credit: Archant
Belsize Park RFC will be hoping to continue scaling the rugby pyramid when they launch their 2014-15 league season this weekend.
One of just a handful of clubs based in central London, home fixtures are staged in Regent’s Park and the lively Sheephaven Bay in Camden acts as the clubhouse.
Belsize have expanded rapidly over the past three years following an influx of new recruits, with the number of teams playing league rugby increasing from two to four.
In addition to that, a hardy band of veterans strap on their old armour once a month and a weekly social/development XV also gets together, valuing the club’s spirited social scene over results.
Driving the recent success is the first XV, who have celebrated two promotions in three years and, having moved up from Herts/Middlesex Division One last season, they now compete in London Division Three North West.
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It is the first time Belsize have participated in the London leagues, and they kick off their campaign against Grasshoppers on Saturday.
Tom House acted as stand-in captain for most of last season and has now taken the armband on a permanent basis.
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He told Ham&High Sport: “We’ve won promotion again so our first objective is to establish ourselves in this division, but ultimately we’d like to step up to London Two North West as soon as possible.
“We have an aggressive style of play and are a hard-working team consisting of lads from all walks of life who give everything for the shirt.
“Our back line is full of strapping six-footers and we have some real firepower behind the scrum, but they can play a bit too.
“There’s a great spirit at the club – everyone gets on, there are no cliques - and we like to think that’s evident in the way we play.
“Part of our identity comes from playing home games at Regent’s Park and, while it’s an amazing setting, our goal is to make it a fortress for opponents, somewhere they don’t want to come.
House added: “Two weeks ago three sides went to East London and registered three victories and last weekend four teams went to Old Alleynians and completed another clean sweep, so it’s looking good at all levels.
“In the first XV, we’re determined to get it off on the right track against Grasshoppers. At the same time we want our seconds starting well at home to Hampstead – a juicy local derby to open their new division. Our other sides get their competitive seasons going next week.”
Belsize Park have lost prolific winger Corey Nash, who has gone back to Australia to finish his degree.
However, over 90 new faces from around the world have taken part in pre-season training. House said: “Competition for places has never been higher and we have identified over 50 potential first-team players, which really bodes well for all four league teams.”
Among the new recruits to monitor are Benjamin de Solar, a back row who has been capped by Chile, and dynamic hooker Danny Steadman.
Adding ballast up front is David Shutte, an Australian utility forward who is explosive in the loose, and No9 Rich Turner has an excellent pedigree, while adding to a sizeable backs division.
The international influence is strong, with the diversity of London reflected on the pitch and augmented by an enthusiastic and bold approach to touring.
Spring and summer trips have departed annually since 1979, exporting the Belsize brand as far as China, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Hong Kong and South Africa as well as within Europe.
The club have recently been to Croatia, Denmark, Germany and Portugal. In April next year they will travel to Barbados for the first time.
Any players wishing to join Belsize Park or local businesses wanting to assist the club in any capacity can visit www.bprfc.co.uk for contact details.