CSU will be the first team to take on the Blayney Rams in the new-look Blowes Clothing Cup tier two competition this April.
The university team are one of the cup’s returning clubs for 2018 while the GrainCorp Cup Southern Division champion Rams will put themselves to the test in a new environment.
It will be a big day for both clubs, with the Rams playing host for the April 7 clash while the students will hope to stamp their authority on the newly created second division.
Scott Hatch will return as coach for CSU’s first grade team.
Prior to CSU’s big recruitment drive every year – O week – the biggest question is how healthy player numbers will be for the club.
However, Hatch said a strong core group of players will be on hand already for a new season of rugby.
“Of the group we used over first, second grade and colts last year we’ve got about 10 back. Of that I’d say six to seven of them were regular starters for our first grade team,” he said.
“Those two or three guys from seconds and colts were always pushing for a spot in the top grade. There’s a few players returning to Bathurst this year so we’ll wait and see if we can get any of them to come on board.”
Following last season’s competition Central West Rugby Union announced their intention to split the competition into two tiers to promote a more competitive atmosphere.
CSU were initially touted as a division one club but due to the uncertainty surrounding their player depth they opted to start in the lower tier.
While the students take a step down Blayney will be making a step up.
The Rams took out last year’s Graincorp Cup Southern Division title thanks to a 47-8 grand final win over the Temora Tuskers.
I think this second tier is definitely going to hold its own and produce some tough rugby.Scott Hatch
It was the third straight premiership for the Rams who now journey into new territory.
CSU won three of their 18 matches last year in what was a challenging season of rugby.
“I think they’ll be one of the stronger sides in this competition, to be honest,” Hatch said of Blayney.
“From what I’ve seen and heard about them over the past two years they have got a brutal forward pack and couple of handy play makers, especially in their inside backs.”
Making up the rest of the second tier competition will be the Mudgee Wombats, Parkes Boars, Dubbo Rhinos and the Narromine Gorillas.
“I think it’s going to be pretty tough football week in and week out,” Hatch said.
“Mudgee are obviously going to be strong given they don’t have to take on those tougher sides, and they’ll have brand new coach as well.
“Parkes will also benefit from not going up against the bigger clubs and Narromine will be dangerous too.
“I think this second tier is definitely going to hold its own and produce some tough rugby.”
CSU's first home game will be against the Wombats in round two, followed by a trip to Dubbo.