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Marcus Cattell wants Bishop's Stortford RFC to be ready for new National League 1 season as restructure could mean five teams face relegation

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Marcus Cattell wants his Bishop's Stortford side ready to hit the ground running next season as they could face a bigger battle to avoid relegation.

The RFU and National Clubs Association have announced plans for a new competition structure at levels three and four from the 2022-23 campaign, with the number of teams in National League 1 being cut by two from 16 to 14.

It means next term could see the bottom five sides – those finishing 12th to 16th – falling through the trap door.

Stortford came eighth and ninth in their first two seasons in National League 1, but their 12th-place finish in the curtailed 2019-20 campaign would have seen them relegated under next season's playing conditions.

And joint head coach Cattell is hoping his squad will be able to train together ahead of their return for pre-season to help them prepare for the challenge.

"Next season's a really important season for us to finish as high up the table as we can," said Cattell.

Bishop's Stortford's joint head coach Marcus Cattell. Picture: Vikki Lince
Bishop's Stortford's joint head coach Marcus Cattell. Picture: Vikki Lince

"We always want to finish as high as we can, but a quick start will be needed and that's why we want to get the boys back in early if we can, before pre-season, because it will help us to hit the ground running.

"The position we finished in last year would have meant we got relegated."

The RFU and NCA plans for the restructure, which are due to face a final vote in April, would also see the number of teams in National League 2 North and South cut to 14 and potentially a third division added to that tier, meaning three would feed into National League 1.

"We don't want to get relegated for any reason, but especially because the league below won't be the quality it used to be," said Cattell.

"I think they're doing the right thing in terms of reducing the amount of rugby played because the intensity of so many games, especially before Christmas with no breaks, can be very tough mentally and physically. But at National League 2 level it will lower the standard.

"But I think it is the right thing for the RFU and NCA to do and we just need to make sure we stay in National League 1 as we feel that's where we belong now.

"All teams are going to be in the same position, wanting to finish up the table to maintain their National League 1 status. Every game is going to be important."

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