Whitchurch will get an early indication of the task that lies ahead when they make their eagerly anticipated return to the Midlands 1 West in Saturday's opening day tussle with Droitwich at Edgeley Park (3pm).

The Reds were narrowly relegated from the division following a tough campaign two seasons ago, and are under no illusions about the challenges they face.

"It's an exceptionally strong league," said coach Scott Sturdy. "There are a lot of good clubs, and I wouldn't like to pick the top two or bottom three.

"When we were in the league last time, we struggled with injuries, and could point to a lot of things that didn't go for us. There are always ifs and buts, but league tables don't lie at the end of the season. This is now a fresh start for us now with a lot of new players who want to prove themselves at this level

"We need to make sure we perform week in week out, keep progressing, and if we do that, then I am sure we will be okay.

"Obviously winning is important, but we want to put in performances to match. We've only had one pre-season game, which is not ideal, but that's the way it's going for a lot of teams.

"We have trained and prepared well, look fit and physically in good shape, and we will know just where were are on Saturday.

"It's important we are clear in our plans, and make sure we execute them properly.

"Last season, we were very strong defensively, but need to be more clinical in our conversion rates in attack.

"While we may have got 12 chances last season, we may now only get five or six."

The Reds underlined their cutting edge with a 98-7 hammering of Telford in their one pre-season friendly, with new arrival Luca Owen-Youens scoring four of the tries. The versatile back from Oswestry is set to make his debut on Saturday, but second row Matt Owen and centre Henry Hockenhull, the player of last season, are both ruled out through work commitments.

Young second row James Ryder faces a couple of months on the sidelines after snapping his collar bone in training a few weeks back.

On the plus side, full back Robbie Leighton is back in training after a long term injury, and could feature before the end of the year.

The 14 teams making up the Midlands 1 West this season are: Bromsgrove, Newbold-on-Avon, Old Halesonians, Malvern, Longton, Moseley Oak, Stoke-on-Trent, Stourbridge Lions, Hereford, Sutton Coldfield, Dudley Kingswinford, Whitchurch, Droitwich and Worcester.

After their opening day encounter with Droitwich, the Reds visit Dudley Kingswinsford the following week, before hosting Hereford seven days later.

They then travel to Staffordshire to take on Longton before the month concludes when Malvern are the visitors to Edgeley Park.