Fox has as­sem­bled his best-ever Lions squad

Rugby - Na­tional League Divi­sion Three

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Sport - By Bob French

Peter­bor­ough Lions are in great shape and rar­ing to roar into ac­tion against Derby at Bret­ton Park on Satur­day (3pm). The Lions will be play­ing their third sea­son in Na­tional League Divi­sion Three and will again be fan­cied to be among the fron­trun­ners.

In their first sea­son in the Na­tional Leaguethey fin­ished third, nar­row­lymissin­gou­ton the pro­mo­tion play-offs, and last sea­son­they­at­tainedatop­four fin­ish, which was not a bad ef­fort see­ing as they suf­fered an early-sea­son in­jury cri­sis.

So can they im­prove, se­cure pro­mo­tion and move up a level? That’s a ques­tion head coach Dar­ren Fox, now go­ing into his third sea­son at the helm, won’t be drawn on.

“My aim is to get the best out of the play­ers, make sure they im­prove and make sure we’re competitive at this level. I don’t do bold predici­tions,” he said.

“The re­sults will look af­ter them­selves. Bu­tifwearethere or there­abouts at Christ­mas then we’ll be go­ing for it.

“What I can tell you is that I’ve got the best set of play­ers since I’ve been here. We’ve added plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence to the squad. Some of the new play­ers have played in Na­tional League One, and that will cer­tainly stand us in good stead.”

The Lions were away on tour over the Bank Hol­i­day week­end in Corn­wall and played Cam­borne on Satur- day in their last pre-sea­son friendly.

“They­play­atthe­samelevel as us - in the South West divi­sion - and it was an ideal test,” said Fox. “They were a big phys­i­cal side and it was just whatwe­need­ed­going­in­tothe Derby game.

“Welost 19-12, but wewere much the bet­ter side in the sec­ond­half. They­kickedafew penal­ties to get the win.

“Over­all I was well pleased with­thep­er­for­mance­andthe week­end as a whole. We all went surf­ing and there was some great bond­ing.”

Fox, a for­mer Northamp­ton Saints and Bed­ford Blues star, came on him­self for the last 20min­utestoscore­o­neof the Lions’ tries (Joe An­dresen got the other) but Fox is only likely to play next sea­son if re­quired.

On­the­sign­ing front, ex­pe­ri­enced for­wards Josh Waller (ex-Eng­land Un­der 18s) and Peter Ko­lakowski (ex-Bri­tish Police) have joined the Lions on­aper­ma­nent­ba­s­is­fromNa­tional LeagueOneCam­bridge af­ter play­ing for them on loan last sea­son.

Fly-half Nico De­feo has al­so­joined fromCam­bridge­and he’srep­re­sent­edI­taly­atUn­der 21 level.

Tal­ented back row player Tom Gul­land is an­other exEng­land Un­der 18s man mov­ing to Bret­ton Park. He was with Na­tional League One club Blay­don last sea­son and be­fore that New­castleFal­cons Acad­emy.

New cen­tre Jonathan Hill (33) hasn’t played for a cou­ple of sea­sons but has a very im­pres­sive pedi­gree, hav­ing played for Cardiff Blues (20 games in the 2005/2006 sea- son), Wasps Acad­emy and Ul­ster. He was out­stand­ing in the game against Cam­borne.

For the Derby fix­ture, the Lion­sare­with­outSamCrooks, Cur­tis Weaver (both un­avail­able), Del Le Ray Vee­nen­daal andMat­tDunn(both­in­jured). Derby were pro­moted via the play-offs from Mid­lands Divi­sion One last sea­son.

Peter Ko­lakowski has signed for the Lions.

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