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Mark Ireland could be key Otley signing
Otley will be without a lot of familar faces when they start their SSE National League Two North season next month.
Gone from last season’s first-team squad are popular back-rowers Toby Williams (Rotherham), Jonathan Matthews (Sedgley Park) and Rob Afoa-Peterson (Cleckheaton), as well as league record try-scoring winger James Twomey (Sheffield) and goal-kicking fly half Ben Cooper (Kelso).
Others to have departed include reserve scrum half Kirk Arundale (Bradford & Bingley), plus Jake Armstrong, Oliver Cicognini and Luke Cole, who have all returned to Leeds Carnegie.
Cooper, who was on loan from Leeds Carnegie, played for Scotland under-20s while a year young at the Junior World Championships in France this summer, and feels the move north will enhance his international prospects.
It was a difficult choice, however, as a number of IPA Greene King Championship clubs offered him a trial and RaboDirect Pro12 Club Zebre came in with a late offer earlier this month.
A key signing for Otley could be fly half or full back Mark Ireland from Sheffield, who is one of those rare individuals who can win a game off his own bat.
A trio have also arrived from Morley in back-rower Steven Costello, scrum half Mark Cooke and full back Nick Coupland, as well as experienced winger or full back Arnie Ellison from Harrogate.
Costello and Cooke are returning to their old stamping ground, as is Coupland, who scored the winning try for Otley in the Granville Clark Memorial Trophy match against Bradford & Bingley as recently as last January.
Another returning to Cross Green is Wheatley Hills prop Jonathan McMillan, who was signed by then director of rugby Gary Walker in November, 2010.
Prop or hooker Mark Chivers, formerly of Cleckheaton and Wharfedale, has signed from Sheffield Tigers, while back-rower Jack Scott Paul of Northumbria University has joined from Darlington Mowden Park Others like McMillan who are trying their luck from junior clubs are back-rower Bruce Cowerly from Bramley Phoenix, winger Chris Dyson from Old Rishworthians and fly half or full back Andrew Coubrough from Bradford University and Ellesmere College.
In addition, discussions are ongoing with a number of other potential first-team squad players.
As per usual, Otley also have a crop of juniors who are stepping up to senior level, including Will Rigg, Joe Garforth, Henry Walker, Jack Smith, Oli Cooper, Harry Wales, Joe Armitage, Ewan Brannan and Will Prest.
Many of the new signings will be in action on Saturday in the annual Granville Clark Memorial Trophy match at home to Bradford & Bingley (3pm).
On the field, pre-season has started very encouragingly, with Otley winning the Roundhegians Tens Tournament last Saturday.
The Cross Greeners, whose squad was a healthy mix of experience and youth, won all five of their matches, and conceded only six tries while scoring 26.
Otley began with big wins over Harrogate (33-0) and the hosts (52-5), and then triumphed in a tight and feisty encounter 15-12 against holders Baildon before defeating Leodiensians 27-10 in the semi-final and West Park Leeds 31-7 in the final.
Try-scorers were Will Boardman (6), skipper Daniel Temm (5), James Wood (3), Nazir Karim (3), Jameel Karim (2), Andrew Lowdon (2), Stephen Costello, Jon Stannard, Prest, Tom Barnes and Tom O’Donnell, and conversions came from Costello (7), Boardman (5), Lowdon and Karim (don’t know which one).
Others involved were Joe Armstrong, Ed Goodwill, Collum Hanogue, Simon Raper and Harry Hewlett.
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