Doncaster Knights’ first opponents at Castle Park this season are tipped by some pundits to be one of the favourites to be relegated.
They point to the fact that Hartpury finished third bottom in their first season in the Championship, while second bottom London Scottish have turned full time and relegated Rotherham have been replaced by big-spending National One champions Coventry.
But Knights hooker Ben Hunter, who lists Hartpury as one of his former clubs, is refusing to write off their chances so early in the season - not least after their excellent win over visiting Yorkshire Carnegie at the weekend.
“I think last season will have been a bit of a learning process for them,” he said.
“But I think if a club can survive their first season at this level then they’ll know what to expect and can grow in their second season.
“I’m sure that’s what Hartpury will do.
“I’m certainly expecting it to be a competitive game and one we’ll have to play well to win,” he added.
“You know what sort of rugby they are going to play due to the fact that they are a predominantly young side.”
Reflecting on the results on the opening weekend of the season, which included defeat for Knights at Cornish Pirates, Hunter said: “It’s going to be a competitive league as always, maybe even more so this season.
“Promoted Coventry have spent a lot of money and will likely prove stronger than Rotherham did last season but money doesn’t always guarantee you success.”
The aim at Castle Park is a top four finish and to be pushing for honours and Hunter believes that is a realistic target.
“As long as we are competitive, as I expect will be the case, then I think we’ll do all right,” he said.
“Our home form was a bit patchy last season so we know we have to do better.
“We’ve got to make it more difficult for teams coming up here.
“We have to make Castle Park a fortress again.”