Preview: Home start for rising Hull Ionians as Wharfedale look to build

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HULL IONIANS are the fourth-highest Yorkshire team in the national pyramid going into the 2017-18 campaign.

Ionians have finished two places above the relegation zone in each of the last two seasons in National One, since winning promotion from National Two North three years ago.

Harrogate's Dave Doherty.

Harrogate's Dave Doherty.

The Brantingham Park outfit begin their third season in the third tier at home to Coventry today.

Wharfedale will be hoping to improve on their first season in National Two North when the new campaign begins with a trip to Macclesfield today.

Relegated from National One two seasons ago, the Greens are hoping to build on a 10th-place finish in their first season in the fourth tier.

Head coach James Doherty said: “Our main aim is sorting out our own affairs in terms of the set-piece and planned moves with the backs so that we can be as confident as possible.”

Our main aim is sorting out our own affairs in terms of the set-piece and planned moves with the backs so that we can be as confident as possible.

Wharfedale coach James Doherty

Huddersfield return to the fourth tier looking to continue the momentum gained from their record-breaking season last term.

They won all 26 of their games en route to the National Three North title and begin life back in National Two at South Leicester.

Otley have room for improvement as they chase a return to the third tier. They start with a home game against Stourbridge.

Sheffield’s promotion from National Three North means there are two teams from the Steel City in the division, with the Tigers having avoided relegation last season by the skin of their teeth.

Harrogate aiming to bounce back

HARROGATE RUFC chief Dave Doherty is backing his players to challenge for promotion from National Three North in 2017-18.

The Rudding Lane outfit, relegated on the final day of last season, kick-off the new campaign with what is anticipated to be a “tough” trip to Billingham.

The club’s director of rugby predicts that their opening game will be just one of many difficult tests as they prepare to do battle with a host of clubs vying to escape the division.

“There will be a number of teams in contention for promotion this season and I’m confident that we will be right up there,” said Doherty.

“The aim is to get promoted, but it’s going be a real challenge with the quality of the sides in this division.

“I’m happy that we’ve managed to keep the majority of our squad together from last season.”

The presence of Hull, Sandal, Ilkley, Morley and Pocklington means Yorkshire derbies abound in the fifth tier.