Hartpury College have come a long way since Doncaster Knights hooker Ben Hunter last played for them.
“They were down in South West 2 or something when I left them,” said Hunter, who spent six years at the Gloucestershire club.
They will arrive at Castle Park for the first time in confident mood having run third-placed Yorkshire Carnegie close and beaten Nottingham in their last two league games.
“I’m not surprised at how well they’ve done this season at Championship level because I expected them to be competitive,” said Hunter, who signed a new contract last week.
“But then again it’s very difficult coming up to this level so they probably have exceeded people’s expectations.”
Among their best performances in the first half of the season was a 29-27 home win over the Knights back in October.
“They scored a last minute try to beat us and if I’m being completely honest I thought they deserved to win so we’ve got to be on our mettle this week,” said the hooker.
“We've had a mixed season but the fortunate thing is that we’ve generally managed to pick up bonus points when we’ve lost and that has kept us in touch with the top four.”
Knights have shown more consistency since the turn of the year and have won three of their last four league and cup games.
“We are starting to find a bit more consistency now, though we had to work hard to beat London Scottish,” said Hunter.
“I thought that we were a bit nervy at times and they showed great energy and it just put us under pressure. I also don’t think we managed playing into the strong wind in the first half too well.
“We had a lot of the ball but because it was difficult to kick our way out of trouble we struggled to get out of our own half.
“Credit to them they played really well but I thought our bench was outstanding - they changed the game and added real impetus.
“It just shows that we’ve got a strong squad when everyone is fit and that anyone of us can come in and do a good job at any time.”
As well as Hunter, Tyson Lewis, Curtis Wilson, Mat Clark, Tom James, Joe Sproston, Will Owen, Matt Challinor, Tom Hicks, Michael Hills, Colin Quigley, Charlie Foley, David Nelson and Morgan Eames have all signed new deals.