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Cambridge seeking National League One improvement after last season's fourth place finish

Richie Williams has challenged Cambridge to improve on last year during the new National League One season.

After a difficult start to the campaign, they surged through the table to make a push for promotion, eventually coming short with two games left to play.

It meant that they ended up in fourth place, the second highest finish the club has achieved in National League One.

Richie Williams is seeking improvement on last season's fourth-placed finish. Picture: Keith Heppell
Richie Williams is seeking improvement on last season's fourth-placed finish. Picture: Keith Heppell

“We had a conversation a few weeks ago with some of the members of the club and that question was probably the first one that was asked, how we measure success for this season,” said Cambridge director of rugby Williams.

“I think, to put it bluntly, it’s improving on where we finished last season. It’s quite a high target. Last season we finished fourth in National One, which is the highest we’ve finished for a long, long time at the club.

“For it to be successful this year, we have to surpass the achievements that we had last season. That’s going to be a challenge in itself.

“I think last year, take away our opening three losses and we probably would have finished higher than that fourth place.

“The principal focus in the off-season and during pre-season has been trying to iron out any creases that we felt had in our game last season.

“We’ve recruited in some areas where we feel we needed a little bit more depth. All we’re after this season is that consistency in performance, whether we’re playing at home in Cambridge or away at Rosslyn Park.

“So it’s targeting a higher finish than we achieved last season.”

There have been a number of changes to the coaching team during the summer.

Anthony Allen has come in as defence coach and Neil Harris has been recruited as set-piece coach.

The new playing additions have included props Matt Collins and Seb Brownhill, fly-half Stef James, winger Rian Hamilton and young backs Dan Brough and Tom Hoppe.

Cambridge’s driving maul was their most potent weapon last season, and they have been working during the off-season to hone all areas of their game.

“It was well documented about our strength with our driving line-out and our set piece,” said Williams.

“I think that was probably more obvious last season because it’s never been a strength before so that probably caught people’s eye a little bit.

“It’s important we’ve got an all-round game with our attack and I think there were times last season, certainly in our last five or six games, where we possibly became over reliant on our driving line-out and teams did their homework on us and found ways on how they could stop that.

“We’ve been working really hard in the summer to finesse in some of the other areas of our attack, just making sure if teams do stop our set piece and our driving line-out then we’ve got other areas of our game that we can go to.

“A lot of time has been placed on our attacking kicking game, that’s something that I wanted to explore a bit more from last season. Other aspects from our game as well we can probably finetune.

“To put it bluntly, we developed the foundations really strongly last season so it’s just adding a little bit more layer to those this season and I’m quite hopeful that if we can do that then we’d be in another strong position again.”

Caldy went up as champions last year, and it is likely that the likes of Rosslyn Park, Sale FC, Cinderford, Rams and even Chinnor and Birmingham Moseley could be contenders for promotion this campaign.

But Williams added: “We probably have the same conversations every pre-season, it’s hard to predict who will be the front runners. But we’ve put more focus on our identity and what we’re about as a team.

“We built that last season with some of the performances that we had, so I tend not to worry about the other teams in the league.”

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