Doncaster Knights skipper Michael Hills has a special reason to be excited about the start of the Championship season this weekend.
This time last year the popular flanker was facing a long spell on the sidelines after being injured in pre-season training.
“I missed the first six months of the season as it turned out,” he recalled.
Not surprising then that Hills is raring to go and to be involved from the off.
“I’m really excited about our prospects for the season with the squad the club have put together,” he said.
“Recruitment has gone really well and the training camp in Guernsey really helped bond the squad together.
“Reaching the play-off final in the 2015-16 campaign meant last year the close-season was a short turnaround whereas this summer we’ve had a full pre-season.
“Fitness coach Dougie Flockhart has worked us hard during pre-season whilst varying the training which has been brilliant.
“Because the main pitch has been unavailable Dougie has had to come up with some other ideas apart from the gym work and we’ve been swimming, boxing, interval training in the wood and, as with the Guernsey camp, it has helped create a great bond between the lads doing some things you wouldn’t normally do as a rugby player.
“It’s always difficult to say at this time of the year whether the squad is stronger than last year but I’d like to think that we will be. What I will say is that there will be competition for places throughout the team.”
Looking ahead to the season, Hills said: “I certainly think the fact that we’ve had a full pre-season together will stand us in good stead, particularly during the first month or so when it’s crucial to get off to a good start.
“We’ve got a tough start with a trip to Jersey and two Yorkshire derbies.
“There is also a great unknown this year because there have been big changes at the likes of (London) Scottish, Jersey, Yorkshire Carnegie and then there’s Bristol who have come down from the Premiership.
“On the other hand teams such as (Cornish) Pirates have kept a lot of their squad and Ealing have put together another strong squad with a lot of quality players.
“But all we are concentrating on at this moment is time is Jersey and my feelings are let’s get over there and get the job done!
“It’s never an easy place to go but 100 per cent I’d rather go now than in the depths of winter.
“That said, it’ a case of swings and roundabouts because Jersey have got some good backs who will be a threat on a dry ground.
“Whereas when it’s wet and windy – as it often has been when we’ve played them in the past – it makes for more of a forward game and they’ve always got a strong pack.
“Although we are confident of getting a result this weekend we know that they are always fit, well drilled and physical.
“But the lads are all looking forward to the game and we’ll not only be looking to win but also to perform. That’s very important.”