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Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club head coach Nick Wakley eyeing a season to remember following arrival of trio




Head coach Nick Wakley’s hope of overseeing a ‘legacy season’ at Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club has continued to take shape with the addition of three more new signings.

It has been a busy period in terms of recruitment for the Wolfpack, with the tally of fresh additions now up to 14 ahead of their 2020/21 National League 2 South campaign getting under way on a currently unspecified date.

Hal Riley (Stourbridge), Josh Laird (Heriot’s) and Nahuel Villegas (Old Crescent) are the latest trio through the GK IPA Haberden entrance door, and Wakley is confident their presence will help Bury to achieve next term’s goals.

RUGBY - Bury St Edmunds v Old Redcliffians..Pictured: Head Coach Nick Wakley...PICTURE: Mecha Morton. (37687202)
RUGBY - Bury St Edmunds v Old Redcliffians..Pictured: Head Coach Nick Wakley...PICTURE: Mecha Morton. (37687202)

“It is no secret that at the start of last season we were keen to stabilise and push up the league,” said Wakley.

“I’m confident with the form we were in when Covid-19 struck we would have done that, especially with the teams in the top four to play. We had a real chance to make up some ground.

“Now we are really looking to enjoy a legacy season and the challenge is to start with a bang.

RUGBY -Bury St Edmunds v Clifton..Pictured: Head Coach Nick Wakley...PICTURE: Mecha Morton. (37687227)
RUGBY -Bury St Edmunds v Clifton..Pictured: Head Coach Nick Wakley...PICTURE: Mecha Morton. (37687227)

“We have got a good mixture of players who know what it takes to play at a higher level and others that are young, hungry and keen to prove themselves.

“Getting the balance will be key and it will take some work, but we are confident it will come and these three players will be big assets.”

Wakley believes the arrival of outside centre Riley will help to cover the departure of the influential Ben Leng.

Riley has spent the previous couple of years turning out for Stourbridge in National League 2 North, having joined the west Midlands-based outfit from North Walsham.

Hal Riley (37623212)
Hal Riley (37623212)

Wakley said: “Hal is fairly local and a player we have been keeping an eye on for a little while.

“Losing someone of Ben’s ability is always going to be a blow, but bringing in Hal sends out a statement.

“Ben is an excellent ball carrier and a solid organiser, and those are Hal’s main strengths. He will offer us plenty of experience in a key area.”

Laird, meanwhile, comes to Bury from a Heriot’s side that have been crowned five-time champions of the Scottish Premiership.

Josh Laird (37623215)
Josh Laird (37623215)

And Wakley is backing the versatile former Scotland youth international to get the Bury faithful off their seats.

“Josh will give us some versatility either playing at 10 or centre,” added Wakley.

“He has got lightening feet, the sort of player that could side step you in a phone box.

“From the few chats I have had with him, he is keen to get down here and get started. Josh will allow us to mix things up a little bit and use two first receivers – that will give us some good balance.”

Nahuel Villegas (37622925)
Nahuel Villegas (37622925)

While Laird will provide plenty of pace to Bury’s starting XV, fellow new arrival Villegas – standing at 6’2” and weighing more than 16 stone – is an imposing figure.

Wakley said of the Argentine number eight: “Our scouting never stops!

“We have seen plenty video footage of Nahuel and he is a big, physical presence.

“Our league is a demanding one in a physical sense, but he will be up to it. We want to play with a big tempo and you need great balance within your back row to get there.

“It took a while but we were getting there before the break, and Nahuel will help to improve us even more.”

Wakley has already started to put his new-look squad through their paces with a series of fitness tests.

He has been pleased with the results, and is looking forward to working more closely with the players as government restrictions ease.

“You can be glass half empty or glass half full in these situations,” he said. “Obviously it would be beneficial to know when we can train properly and when the league will start for sure, but this break has allowed bodies and minds to heel.

“I have been impressed with the players during lockdown. You can see they have trained hard and they have returned some fantastic scores in the fitness tests.

“Hopefully we are not far away from a bit more normality. It would be great if we can get the club open and get back to the business of building a very competitive team on the pitch.”