ILKLEY'S head of rugby, Rhys Morgan, admits the excitement is building ahead of the new campaign.

The pandemic has kept rugby dormant in the town of Ilkley, but recent friendlies against West Leeds, Yarnbury and Blackburn have ensured that optimism has been able to build again around the club.

After being relegated in the previous campaign, Morgan is hopeful his side can bounce back immediately.

And Ilkley's head of rugby is also extremely pleased to be back, while exercising the importance of rugby returning.

He said: "It's great to be back and it's brilliant on the mental front.

"The lads have just been needing that kind of freedom and outlet that rugby offers.

"It's brilliant to just get the boys back playing again and seeing them happy.

"We've had three games in close proximity, which was an absolute mad week, where we had fixtures against West Leeds, Yarnbury and Blackburn away.

"I did think when we got about nine injuries in the first game, that I might have bitten off more than I could chew.

"And I was getting a little bit worried about the Blackburn game, because last time we travelled to Blackburn in the league, we got a bit of a kick-in, and I thought it could be a trip too far.

"But it was an outstanding game. We lost 20-19 and should have come away with the win."

In the year off, Ilkley lost around 20 first team players and Morgan admitted the year was tough, while also conceding the time away was about trying to rebuild the squad.

He said: "We had a really hard year last time we were out.

"We had lost about 20 quality first team players through work, players going off to play at a higher level, so we've been in a state of rebuilding.

"It has just been wonderful to see so many faces down at training. We had around 50 players at first team training, something I've never seen in all my time at Ilkley Rugby Club, which is around 13 years.

"It was always 46 or 47, but it was 50 this time. It was brilliant to see, and it was of such high quality too.

"It has certainly kick-started me again. It's really promising what we are seeing at the club, and I think we have a good thing going on.

"I really believe that we could compete next year and try and get ourselves back up again.

"That's where we want to be and that is definitely our aim.

"With the restructuring taking place and the top four now going up, that gives us belief we can do it.

"If that wasn't our aim, then it's going to be a long season for us. I'm under no illusions though because there are some fantastic teams in our league.”

Ilkley have brought a number of new players in, and Morgan confessed his excitement about how the squad is shaping up.

He said: "I'm getting so excited. We played against each other in a trial game and the score was seven tries to five. It was a cracking game and there was real quality on show."