Doncaster Knights can challenge at top end of Championship - Hills

Michael Hills (left) leads his team into battle with London Welsh on Saturday.
Michael Hills (left) leads his team into battle with London Welsh on Saturday.
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Knights skipper Michael Hills has warned their Greene King IPA Championship rivals the club mean business this season as they look to win a play-off place come May.

The Knights were relegated to the third tier of English rugby in 2013, but bounced straight back by winning National One, and finished ninth last year, a comfortable 22 points clear of the drop.

And Hills’ admits he’s looking up and not down this season, with a host of experience added to the squad over the summer, Doncaster are well placed to claim some serious scalps in the campaign ahead.

“Ultimately our goal is to improve on last year’s position but we’re an ambitious squad so don’t count us out,” said Hills. “I’m not going to say we will get promoted but we want to challenge at the right end of the table.

“Last year from the outset our main objective was to maintain our Championship status, so we counted that as a success, but we had a few close games so we felt we could have been higher.

“But on the whole we were very pleased and it gave us a great platform for this season to go even better.”

The Knights are now more than two months into boss Clive Griffiths’ pre-season gruelling-schedule, but having made ten new signings, the time together has been invaluable.

Michael Heaney is one of those men brought in, rejoining for his second stint at the club, having spent three years with Ulster in the PRO12.

And Hills believes that Heaney, who was also capped by Ireland at U-20 level, brings with him an armoury of weapons that make him a very useful squad member indeed.

“It’s such an advantage to bring someone with Michael’s experience into the squad,” Hills added.

“Michael has brought in some great ideas, and terrific leadership qualities. As a captain it’s great to have somebody else on the pitch with that depth of knowledge.

“He’s got such quality, and he’s played at a great level of rugby. It’s exciting to have him, and now we have three scrum halves who all offer something different.”

Heaney and the rest of the new Knights’ squad will be looking to break into Griffiths’ starting XV for the season opener, when they take on London Welsh at Castle Park.

“Welsh are a quality set-up,” said Hills, who spent four years at the club himself.

“We know we’re going to be facing a strong pack, and when the time is right they’ll attack.

“I couldn’t ask for a bigger game first up as a club, to pitch ourselves in against one of the favourites for the league. As a squad we’re excited to be doing that in front of our fans as well.

“When the time is right we like to play free-flowing rugby; when the opportunities are there you have to take them, but you have to be equally wise to play conservatively.

“The Championship is a tough old league, and as results last year showed, anybody can beat anybody on any given day.”

n The 2015/16 Greene King IPA Championship kicks-off on Saturday. To stay up-to-date with all the latest action, follow @Champrugby on Twitter