Long Buckby coach Duncan Frankland has warned his players they are in for a tough game when they host his former club Rugby Lions in the Midlands final of the RFU Junior Vase at Station Road on Saturday (ko 2.45m).
Rugby is the club where Frankland, who also played for Northampton Saints, ended his senior playing career.
A place in the national semi-finals at stake for the winners of Saturday’s final, and league placings would suggest that Buckby, as leaders of Midlands Four East (South), should start as favourites against the Lions, who are runaway leaders of Midlands Five West (South), but Frankland has sounded a cautionary note.
Rugby Lions are rebuilding after they were expelled from league rugby last season after they ran into financial difficulties.
The former National League club was re-admitted this season at the bottom of the league structure and they have prospered under the coaching of Rob Walton, who was a member of the Birmingham & Solihull squad that beat London Wasps in one of the great cup upsets of all time ten years ago.
“Rugby have done remarkably well to keep together and to fulfil the criteria to get back into the leagues,” Frankland said.
“We might be in the higher league but Rugby are an ex-National League club. They are still alive and kicking so we will give them are utmost respect and it’s going to be a really tough game.”
Buckby are anticipating one of the biggest crowds in their history as the two grounds are barely 12 miles apart and Frankland is expecting to see some familiar faces from his playing days on the touchline.
“I think that half of the boys that I played with in the early 1990s are rocking up so it will be good to see of the old boys,” Frankland said.
Frankland finished his playing career at Long Buckby and played his last match at 50 before he moved into coaching five years ago.
The club enjoyed initial success but the retirement and departure of a number of senior players led to two successive relegations.
They have since rebuilt with a squad with an average age of around 23, most of whom are products of a successful junior section.
“Out of the 22 squad we are likely to name for Saturday at least 17 of them have come through our junior ranks,” Frankland said.
“We’ve had a couple of tough years but we’ve regrouped in this league and the players have started to perform well again.”