RICHARD Thorpe is excited to find out Chinnor’s level when they begin a season 18 months in the making this weekend.

The National League 1 club start the campaign at home to Sale, who they played in their last competitive fixture – in March 2020.

That season was curtailed by coronavirus and 2020/21 was cancelled, with Chinnor playing only a handful of friendlies since.

The Thame-based club finished pre-season with a gritty 19-17 victory at National League 1 counterparts Blackheath last Friday, but Thorpe knows there is still more to come.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how the machine kicks into gear and how we can improve our one-club ethos,” Chinnor’s director of rugby said.

“We don’t know fully where other clubs are at.

“Rugby is in turmoil. Logic would tell you there’s some experienced rugby players who haven’t found a Premiership or Championship club.

“When we’ve had a few home games and start to see the turnout at Kingsey Road, that will be an indication of how well we’ve done.”

Chinnor finished fourth when the 2019/20 season was decided by the Rugby Football Union’s (RFU) methodology, with Thorpe appointed director of rugby last May.

The former Canada international’s first year in the job almost focused more on players’ mental wellbeing than the physical side, due to months of national lockdowns that spilled into 2021.

Thorpe feels the last 18 months will aid them in the season ahead, adding: “We’re all quite experienced in challenging adversity.

“We’ve challenged ourselves to be very adaptable.

“Things can come out of left field so we want to deal well with those inevitable setbacks.

“Perhaps that’s where we’ll target having an edge over other National 1 clubs.”

Chinnor have bolstered their squad with a steady stream of signings over the last year, including several players with experience at higher levels.

Former Worcester Warriors winger Dean Hammond, ex-London Irish lock Ben Glynn and Tonga international Soane Tonga’uiha are among those to join, the latter two in player-coach roles.

Thorpe said: “These guys’ experience will really pay dividends as we get into the season.

“While a player-coach role is challenging, you still end up with a coach that’s totally connected to the way you play.”

He added: “We’ve added some key signings and have some really good people calling the shots.

“We’re giving ourselves the best shot of a good outcome to the season.”

Elsewhere, Henley Hawks start their National 2 South campaign at home to Old Albanian.

There are four Oxfordshire teams in South West 1 East this season, with Banbury Bulls hosting newly-promoted Witney in their opening match.

Oxford Harlequins are on the road at Chippenham and Grove, another new face, begin at home to Newbury Blues.

In Southern Counties North, Wallingford visit Aylesbury and Bicester visit Marlow, while Gosford All Blacks host Stow-on-the-Wold after moving up a division.