The best intend to get a whole lot better.

Player-coach John Naylor in action for St Ives last season. Picture: PAUL COXPlayer-coach John Naylor in action for St Ives last season. Picture: PAUL COX

St Ives have established themselves as the leading club in the area after a couple of terrific seasons.

They won the Midlands Division Three East (South) title back in 2017/18 when also lifting the Midlands Senior Vase for the first time.

And they followed up those double-winning heroics with a fine first attempt at life in Midlands Division Two East (South) level last term when finishing third.

Now Bulls are hopeful of further progress in 2019/20 when they will aim to put together another promotion challenge.

Director of rugby, Phil Brown, said: "We're really happy with the strength of the first XV squad and delighted with the coaching structure we have in place.

"We feel we're in a good position and it's now about ensuring we can get a strong team out next week.

"We showed we were competitive last season when beating every other team at least once.

"We're a club with a high level of ambition, but we are also realistic people and the key thing for us is that every single player enjoys his rugby regardless of whether we win, lose or draw."

Bulls have been boosted by the arrival of Tom Dougherty, who played at National League level for Peterborough Lions last season.

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Dougherty, who operates as either a fly-half or scrum-half, will also join the club's managerial set-up as skills coach.

He will work with lead coach John Naylor, defence coach Paul Ashbridge, lineout specialist Gaz McLaughlin and scrimmaging guru Simon Fry. Naylor and Ashbridge are also key men on the field.

Naylor said: "Tom's arrival is a strong indication of our ambitions.

"I've worked with him recently at Cambridge University and am really looking forward to him adding to the progress we have made these last seasons.

"We not only gain a player experienced at National League and East Midlands representative level, but a coach with the desire to help the players develop their skills."

Bulls also intend to introduce regular video analysis next season as part of their mission to unlock further improvement.

The club have their players' meeting tomorrow night (Thursday) ahead of pre-season training starting on Tuesday. The first competitive fixture of the new season is a trip to Leicester Forest on September 14.

Among those present will be returning centre Max Dominy who is back with the Bulls in a playing capacity after spending last season in a coaching role with Cambridge.

But flanker Josh Meadows has left the area for work reasons.