COACH Scott Rhodes said his Heworth ARLC side will "go into every game to win and progress" ahead of their return to the National Conference League.

Rhodes also admitted starting their division three season this weekend "is probably not ideal" but he believes they are prepared, bolstered by some experienced acquisitions.

The Villagers - who were founding members and former stalwarts of the elite amateur competition - withdrew from the NCL in 2015, but had their application to rejoin accepted in November last year following a period of rebuilding that culminated in them cruising to the Yorkshire Men's League division one title.

On Saturday, Heworth play their first NCL game for three-and-a-half years when they visit the Wakefield-based Eastmoor Dragons.

Of the move up to the NCL, Rhodes said: "It's new to us. A lot of our players haven't played in the NCL. It's an eye-opener in commitment.

"We'll go into every game like we did last year, we'll go in obviously to win but also looking to progress.

"We're still a young side but it's only our second year of building - it can only get better. We're a year or two in front of where we thought we were going to be.

"I'd say we're prepared. There are two extra teams in the league so it's starting a couple of weeks earlier (than the other divisions), which is probably not ideal, but it is what it is.

"We haven't had much of a run-out pre-season. It's been a bit cramped between Christmas and starting early - maybe on my part, I haven't gauged it properly - and it's our first year going into a season with no friendlies.

"But we're looking forward to it, the players are looking forward to it and we're ready to get cracking."

Heworth have permanently secured the services of Ben Dent, the former York City Knights winger who last season played for the Villagers on dual-reg from League One side Newcastle Thunder.

He is joined at Elm Park Way by another former Knights player in James Morland (from Knaresborough RUFC), plus fellow newcomers Chris Lopez (Eastmoor) and Edward Clapham (York Acorn).

Rhodes added: "The players we've brought in are all good players. They've got experience which is good for the young players. They're good mates with the others and they've come in and done pretty well.

"We've got a lot of quality and they've added to that.

"We're probably missing a couple of guys in the front-row area but that's not something we can do a lot about.

"We've got to be consistent in our selection and make sure the lads are buying into it.

"Everybody is not always available to play - that's the nature of rugby - but we'll try our best.

"I don't think it's about the other teams, it's about how we perform. If I consistently get my best team out, we'll do very well and be a match for everybody."

NCL division one outfit Acorn begin their campaign next week at Pilkington Recs.

Meanwhile, Yorkshire Men's League neighbours New Earswick All Blacks and Acorn 'A' are in friendly action on Saturday. All Blacks host Goole Vikings and Acorn visit West Hull.