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Cambridge Rugby Club in good shape for second half of National League 1 season

After their last two matches in December fell victim to frozen pitches, Cambridge head into 2023 with everything to play for.

Their recent absence from action has seen Richie Williams’ team drop down to fourth in the National League 1 standings, 11 points adrift of table-topping Sale FC.

However, Cambridge have two games in hand on the Greater Manchester-based leaders and they have also played fewer matches than the other two sides above them in Rams and Rosslyn Park.

Cambridge Rugby Club return to action at Taunton this weekend. Picture: Chris Fell
Cambridge Rugby Club return to action at Taunton this weekend. Picture: Chris Fell

“We’re pleased with how the first half of the season went,” said director of rugby Williams.

“Unfortunately we dropped down to fourth with the call offs but we have those games in hand so it’s in our hands to close the gap.

“We’ve got some huge games coming up in January and it’s going to be an important few weeks, but we’re happy if we’re now going slightly under the radar because of where we are in the league.

“There’s no external pressure on us so we can just focus on ourselves and what we do well. There are lots of points left to play for and we are excited to get going again.”

When Cambridge take to the pitch at Taunton on Saturday (January 7), it will be the team’s first competitive outing since the 17-17 draw at second-from-bottom Leeds Tykes on December 3.

However, Williams and his coaching staff have used the longer than anticipated festive break to ensure that the squad remains in peak physical condition.

“We’ve used the time off as a mini pre-season in lots of ways,” he added. “We’ve been very deliberate with the sessions that we’ve put on.

“We used a lot of the experienced we gained from Covid and lockdown, with players given strength and conditioning sessions to do away from the club.

“We had a lot of success with that before so hopefully it’s the same again.

“Sometimes after a break for Christmas teams can be a little slow out of the blocks but we want to start in a positive manner and that is what the last few weeks have all been about.

“We’ve got a fully fit squad to pick from, no new injuries and we’re looking like we’re in good shape.”

The weekend clash at Taunton represents one of Cambridge’s longest away trips of the season.

They will travel to and from Somerset on the day, but while Williams is anticipating a tough encounter, he is backing his team to be on the front foot.

“It’s a tough game to have first up and it’s a long journey obviously, but it’s a game that will mean the players have to be refocused right from the start and that’s a good thing,” he said.

“We travelled down there at a similar time last year and ended up drawing so we know it’s not going to be an easy game.

“But this is what we’ve been preparing for during the last few weeks and I think we’re ready to put in a good performance.”

Hosting Taunton, who were beaten 39-14 during the reverse fixture at Volac Park in September, go into the game on a run of five straight defeats.

They currently occupy 11th place in the 14-team division with a return of 23 points from their opening 14 fixtures.

And unlike Cambridge, Taunton were able to play their two matches before the Christmas break.

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