DIRECTOR of rugby Brett Davey is putting fitness first as the Knights countdown to the start of the new RFU Championship season.
Doncaster’s squad, which includes 13 new faces, returned to training at Castle Park last week to work under the watchful eyes of Davey and player coach Paul Devlin.
Davey’s men start the new campaign at home to Bristol on Saturday, September 3.
“The next few weeks are going to be hard,” said Davey.
“But if the players hit their target they can have a six-day break before the season kicks off.
“Although we do have a lower budget than last season the squad we have assembled are here because they want to play for Doncaster,” he added.
“They all understand we need to be fitter and stronger than ever to play the way we want to play.
“That means the players have bought into the extra fitness level required and are being responsible about the workload.”
The 2011-12 Championship season follows the three stage system of the previous two seasons, plus the addition of a double-legged play-off semi final.
Clubs finishing in the top eight will go into two promotion pools of four, while the bottom four will go into one relegation pool.
Knights start and finish the regular league season against Bristol, while their final home game is against local rivals Rotherham Titans.
Their first derby action will be at Leeds Carnegie, relegated from the Aviva Premiership last season, on the first weekend of October - with the return game scheduled for Christmas Eve.
Doncaster make the long journey to Plymouth on New Year’s Eve.
In a revised British & Irish Cup, Knights have been drawn in a tough five-team group.
Davey’s side will face away games at Irish giants Ulster and Nottingham, as well as home clashes with Leeds and Swansea.