The Bedford Blues players returned to pre-season training this week and were immediately put through their paces by new Strength and Conditioning Coach Andrew Petts.

The lads could have been forgiven for thinking that they would be eased back into things but within minutes of introductions the players were being sent on sprints, wrestling one another, taking on the watt bike and putting on the gloves for a boxing challenge – and all of this before a ball was even touched.

The Blues have a packed pre-season which has seen the first week dedicated to testing and conditioning before a focus on skills begins next week. There are four more weeks of blood and sweat to follow before the lads have a deserved week off at the end of July. August sees a four day training camp in Belfast before pre-season fixtures against Old Albanians and Saracens at Goldington Road and a trip to Ealing.

Speaking after Thursday evening's training session at Bedford Athletics Stadium, Director of Rugby Mike Rayer said: “I'm delighted to say that the majority of the lads are back and everyone is looking in really good shape. Pettsy has quickly got to work having had the chance to cast his eye over the squad and now we are starting to go through the gears as we prepare for the season. We've got a big two months ahead of us and everyone is really knuckling down and grafting hard.”

The Blues have also boosted their options at hooker for the 2014/15 season by adding Saracens Jared Saunders to their squad and re-signing Antonio 'TJ' Harris.

South African Saunders, 23, is a versatile front rower who predominantly plays at hooker but can also step in at loosehead whenever required. Having made 19 appearances for Saracens he gained valuable Championship experience when he was loaned to Plymouth Albion in February.

At 6ft tall and 103kg, Saunders will offer some stiff competition for the number two shirt with Charlie Clare and Harris who agreed a new deal to stay at Goldington Road for the coming campaign. Harris, 20, joined the Blues from North Otago during last season having previously played for Worcester Warriors.

Speaking about the additions, Rayer said: “We're very pleased that two talented young hookers like Jared and TJ have agreed to join us for the coming season and I think that there will be a fantastic battle for that starting place.

“TJ is an extremely enthusiastic young man who has shown that he has a great desire and determination to succeed at Goldington Road and that's the sort of hunger that we want to see. Jared joins us from Saracens with an excellent reputation and he offers us an extra option at loosehead prop which is a real bonus.”

Bedford also have a number of trialists and Academy players who are looking to make a good impression on Rayer and his fellow coaching staff.

Scrum half Peter White came through the Blues Academy and has been playing at Stourbridge for the last three seasons while studying at University and centre Steve Ellis has enjoyed an explosive career at near neighbours Luton.

Blues Academy prospects include scrum half Kieran Duffin, hooker Josh Taylor, and back row trio Brad Scharff, Joss Morgan and Kennet O'Neil.

Rayer added: “We've had a lot of changes to personnel in the off-season and it is important that we take a close look at some talented individuals who could add real value to the squad. Everyone has settled in really well during the first week and there is a real positive vibe about the place.

“I'd also like to take the opportunity to thank all of the players who have departed Goldington Road following last season. We've had to make some very tough decisions but ultimately we have to look to the future and I believe that we have a very solid squad forming. Foxy, and in particular Gregor Gillanders, have been the fantastic servants to the club over several seasons and we wish them well with their respective futures.  

“Recruitment is still ongoing and we hope to finalise a few more, as well as our dual and loan signings from Saracens.”

Blues pre-season squad for 2014/15: Phil Boulton, Billy Moss, Camilo Parilli-Ocampo, James Currie, Tom Williams, Charlie Clare, Antonio Harris, Jared Saunders, Paul Tupai, Mike Howard, Harry Wells, Nick Fenton-Wells, Joe Vandermolen, Justin Blanchet, Josh Buggea, Darrel Dyer, Darryl Veenendaal, Jake Sharp, Steffan Jones, Ollie Dodge, Mike Le Bourgeois, Henry Staff, Patrick Tapley, Dean Adamson, Jim Wigglesworth, James Pritchard.

Trialists and Academy players: Peter White, Steve Ellis, Kieran Duffin, Brad Scharff, Josh Taylor, Joss Morgan, Kennet O'Neil.

Departures (destination if known): Mark Atkinson (Gloucester), Darren Fearn (Sale Sharks), Aaron Morris (Saracens Academy), Brendan Burke (Ampthill), Tom Armes, Ben Cooper, Corey Hircock (all Cambridge), Sam Stanley (England 7s), Neville Edwards (Rosslyn Park), Darren Fox (Peterborough Lions), Harry Peck (retuned to Cambridge University), Sacha Harding (retired), Don Barrell (Saracens Academy Manager), Nico Steenkamp, Dan Seal, Tomas Gilardon-Paz (San Isidro), Gregor Gillanders, Ben Calder(London Scottish), Chris Lord, Anthony Fenner.

Next Home Match

Saturday 18th August
1st XV Pre Season
Goldington Road