Manchester Rugby Club. This time last year the club was in disarray as they prepared for their opening fixture of the season against Esher. They had spent six years in the former National One league until their relegation at the end of the 2009/09 season after the league was rebranded as the Championship and consisting only 12 teams. Immediately their RFU funding was cut from £250,000 to £31,000 and without a new set of backers the player drain commenced immediately. Only 4 players were retained from a squad of 42. Without the type of arrangement many clubs have with their senior neighbours, Manchester were left to honour their fixtures with a hugely inexperienced squad. The rest is history and the opening day loss of 148-0 set the tone for the season with record of played 30 lost 30 with 2626 points conceded and 119 scored!
Half way through the season Elaine Vassie who had been the conditioning coach took over as Head Coach; the first female coach at this level in the country. Since 2008 she has been employed by the RFU as a Community Coach and also has worked with Manchester Village Spartans. Her appointment provoked a great deal of national interest and Vassie is now looking forward to this season in her role as Director of Rugby. She will be assisted this year by Neil Briggs, the 24 year old Sale Hooker who has recently joined the club in a coaching capacity.
So to this Saturday and the home fixture with a strong Loughborough Students outfit who will be looking to go one better than their second place position of last season in National League 2 North. For Manchester in their 150th year it is probably just a matter of waiting to see what happens rather than making any firm predictions at this stage about how this season may develop.
While Manchester were the highest profile team to lose all their league fixtures in 2009/10, five other clubs in the English leagues also ended up with this unenviable record. A young Bedford Athletic team struggled in National Division 3 Midlands with their final defeat of the season being a thumping loss at the hands of Luctonians with only 14 players taking the field including the physio for the Ath! Also in the Midlands Division, the village team of Thorney which is located between Peterborough and Wisbech will be looking to do better this year in the newly expanded Midlands 4 East (South).
In the South West Division, Plymstock Albion Oaks in Cornwall/Devon, Bicester in Southern Counties North and Wotton Bassett in South West 1 East were all winless.
Onthetryline will be following the six teams progress with interest.