PREVIEW: OA’s head coach looking forward to ‘tough test’ at Bedford

Oliver Cooper-Millar puts in a tackle

Oliver Cooper-Millar puts in a tackle - Credit: Archant

It’s been a long summer, but rugby is officially back.

Old Albanian kick-off their pre-season campaign on Saturday at Bedford Rugby Club.

OAs, the hosts and newly-promoted National League One side Ampthill Town will compete in a round robin tournament as they kick their preparations for their respective leagues up a notch.

The first game, between Bedford and Ampthill kicks off at 2pm. OAs will take on Bedford at 3pm and Ampthill at 4pm.

As the lowest of the sides following last year’s relegation to National League Two South, Old Albanian have a tough test on their hands to match their opponents, according to head coach James Shanahan.

“Pre-season is always fairly positive and I’m happy with what we’ve done. I’m looking forward to a game where we can try a few things,” he said.

“I want to see what we’ve been working on in pre-season. I want the team to work hard on defensive shapes, which will be tough because both teams are in higher leagues, and keeping it when we’re stretched and fatigued. That’ll be good for us. I also want us to stretch them when we attack.

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“As long as we’re positive and confident in what we do then I’ll be happy.”

Bedford director of rugby Mike Rayer added: “The lads have been working unbelievably hard on the training field and in the gym and everyone is champing at the bit for some competitive action. Taking on two teams in one afternoon will be an excellent way for us to gauge how well the lads have gelled over the past two months in what should be a cracking afternoon. Pitting your wits against your friends from up the road will certainly make it spicy.”

Last season’s demotion ended a three-year stay in National League One but OAs aren’t using it as fuel to take the league by storm. In fact, it hasn’t even come up in pre-season.

“We haven’t spoken about it,” admitted Shanahan. “We’ll focus on the processes and the rest will take care of itself.

“There are some big teams in the league and four or five who going for promotion so we won’t take anything for granted. If we can perform on the day for 30 days then we stand a good chance of going back up.”

Old Albanian have arranged two other friendlies this summer. They welcome Richmond to Woollams on August 22 and travel to Darlington Mowden Park on August 29.