Doncaster Knights can compete with anyone in RFU Championship, says director of rugby Steve Boden
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Knights begin the 2023/24 campaign at home to Hartpury on Saturday with another bumper crowd expected at Castle Park following the club’s 2,175 gate in their last home game against Bristol Bears.
Yorkshire’s premier rugby union outfit finished sixth in English rugby’s second tier last term and reached the Championship Cup semi-final.
The Premiership Cup, which featured Championship teams for the first time this season, has provided new-look Knights with “a bit of a pre-season”, said Boden, who has signed 19 new players.
They pushed league favourites and last season’s Championship runners-up Ealing Trailfinders all the way in the group stage, losing a knife-edge contest 32-34 following a last-minute missed penalty.
That result, coupled with the demise of last season’s champions Jersey Reds, points towards the potential for a more open competition in the year ahead.
“It’s strong, it’s competitive,” Boden said of the Championship in 23/24.
"You have got a lot of teams who can easily slot into the top half of the table.
“I don’t think there are any games where you are going ‘they will definitely roll them over’.”
Boden underlined his point with the example of big-spending Jersey, who won several matches in the final few minutes on their way to the title last season.
"That’s the margins you are always dealing with, that’s where it’s the coaches’ jobs to not overreact,” he said.
"It’s going to be Ealing, Coventry and Bedford (three of last season’s top four) who are going to be favourites.
"But we have shown enough that we can compete with these sides.”
Boden admitted Knights must tighten up defensively this weekend after shipping no fewer than 12 tries against Northampton Saints in their final Premiership Cup game.
But he was confident they would avoid a hangover from that chastening defeat.
"There’s no point sulking about it because it won’t make you any better,” Boden said.
“I think it will focus their minds.
"The coaching staff did a great job picking them back up and also not overreacting.
"We did some really good stuff (against Northampton), it sounds crazy to say it. There was just one area of our game that was really, really poor.”