Hopes there might soon be competitive rugby at North Walsham were dealt a big blow by Norfolk’s move into Tier 4.

With the league season long since abandoned, plans were in place for home and away fixtures for the Vikings with Bury St Edmunds 2nds, Cambridge 2nds, Colchester, Shelford and Sudbury, whilst the Raiders were due to play the 1st XVs from Fakenham, Holt, Norwich Union and Thetford.

January 23 had been the expected start date but, with no adult rugby allowed in Tier 4, those plans will likely at best have to be revised and at worst shelved.

The games, officially designated as 'friendlies', would be under revised laws designed to reduce contact, the main changes being no scrums or mauls.

Eastern Daily Press: North Walsham in action - but when will their next league game be?North Walsham in action - but when will their next league game be? (Image: Chasing Rainbows)

“Obviously we’d like to playing proper rugby but we were still looking forward to it,” said director of rugby James Knight. “The revised format gives us ample opportunity to display our skills, the games will be very competitive and help to integrate newcomers into the squad. I’d be looking to give the whole squad game time.”

Save for the lockdown periods the players have been training twice a week since July. For much of that time there have been limits on physical contact so the focus has been on skills, conditioning and fitness, communication and team building with competitive challenges built in wherever possible. Most sessions have had over 40 participants with a recent high of 50. The squad has been strengthened with 13 new signings all, save for the returning Henry Dewing, from local clubs. Tom Browes, who has retired, Axel Hohneck and Will Swart, who have returned to New Zealand and South Africa respectively, are the only definite leavers from the 2019 -20 squad.

“Not playing has been tough,” said Knight, “but we’re making the best of it, training hard, keeping up the social side as best we can within Covid restrictions. Our focus is being ready to compete against the best in London & South East Premier which we now know won’t be before September 2021. We want to hit the ground running. Promotion was a huge achievement, but it was a beginning not an end.”