Belsize Park have no fears about moving up to join Hampstead
PUBLISHED: 13:01 08 September 2016
They have been planning for this day since their early promotion in March, but Belsize Park will finally begin life as a London Division Two North West club on Saturday.
Since reforming in 1971, BP have yet to contest any games at this level of rugby, but a near-faultless season in Division Three – where they won 19 of their 22 games – has changed that.
The Regent’s Park-based club, who were the division’s highest scorers by a country mile last season, have made several new signings since their move up the leagues was confirmed.
While captain George Haslett is still out injured with a broken shoulder, the club – who start the campaign at home to Welwyn – are hoping he will return to action in the near future.
One player who won’t be returning, however, is Trent Burke – the third team skipper is back in his native Australia after a 10-year spell at the club.
Director of Rugby Zach Webb is expecting Belsize Park to compete at the better end of the table, despite this being their maiden season in the seventh tier.
He said: “I would expect our first XV to compete near the top of London Two, despite it being the highest level we have ever played – that’s what the squad and coaches are aiming for.
“Realistically, the club would be delighted if we just embed ourselves at this new, higher level, but we are also looking forward to rekindling some friendly local rivalries.”
The second XV have moved to Middlesex Merit Table One and expect to challenge for the title, while the third XV aim to complete a league and cup double for the fourth year in a row.
BP’s junior side, Regent’s Park Royals, are looking for players to come along and join in sessions on a Sunday morning.
The club were one of only eight in the country last year to win an RFU President’s award and in the recent National Rugby Awards, they were one of the five nominees for Club of the Year (including all amateur and professional clubs in the country).
For their fifth successive season in London Division Two North West, Hampstead are reporting the best player retention levels in years.
Just Ben Sanderson and Joe Brawn have left, while various new faces have helped Hampstead to friendly wins over Finchley (31-0) and Old Merchant Taylors (45-0).
There are high hopes for former Leicester Tigers academy player Elliot Read, who has National League One experience with Coventry.
Head coach Peter Breen hopes the club can build on their sixth place finish last time round.
He told Ham&High Sport: “Over the last three seasons, we have gone from 10th to sixth, winning more games every season.
“Based on our trajectory, our target will be around 14 wins and that would be a good season for us.
This season’s fixture list pits Hampstead against promoted Belsize Park and Breen admits he is ‘truly looking forward’ to the prospect of the first derby between the pair in December.
Hampstead start this season as they began the last, with a trip to Enfield Ignatians on Saturday.