Former Section Paloise and Hartpury College second row Ben Kelland and Coventry scrum half Finn Creighton among five new signings for Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club
As they approach the new National League 2 South season Jacob Ford is delighted to have bolstered his Bury St Edmunds squad with five further close-season signings – taking the total to 11.
While second row Joe Green, centre Tanner Lightfoot and fly-half Aaron Forrest will all be familiar names to the Woolfpack's supporters, having all rejoined the Suffolk club, the other two fall in the marquee signings bracket.
Second row Ben Kelland was capped by England at Under-16s level and has experience with French Top-14 club Section Paloise, having signed a two-year professional contract at 'Pau' after leaving Northampton Saints Academy (U18s) in the summer of 2016.
He went on to play for Hartpury RFC and their university team from 2018, while studying for a sports business management degree.
The player who broke on to the club scene at Colchester, having starred for the Royal Hospital School in Ipswich and then Framlingham College, is well known to Bury's head coach Ford, working in his coaching team at Ipswich School.
Scrum half Fin Creighton is another former Northampton Saints U18s player who has been on the books at a Championship club in Coventry. But he returned to play at National League 1 side Cambridge, where he came through the junior ranks, in June 2018 having decided not to pursue a professional playing career.
"These two are big signings for us and it is good for the club," said Ford, who was recently signed a new three-year contract at Bury which also sees him succeed Nick Wakley as director of rugby as well as take over recruitment from Terry Sands.
"Fin is one I have had my eye on for a while and we are looking forward to him coming to the club.
"He was attracted by the environment here, not just for this season but going forward too.
"He has something different to our other scum halves and so will give us a nice balance to our squad."
Of Kelland, who is now based just outside Ipswich and had been appointed head coach of Gloucestershire-based Berry Hill RFC last summer, he said: "Ben has come over from Hartpury College.
"He is a fantastic line-out forward and from a defensive perspective he is probably different to what we already have.
"He knows quite a few of the boys down here and he is prepared to try and get us promoted.
"He adds an extra advantage to our forward pack and he is a very intelligent player who will drive standards for us – it is brilliant to have him on board."
With Creighton living within an hour of the club and Green, Lightfoot and Forrest all now living or working in the local area, which sparked their returns, Ford says it shows a shift in recruitment policy.
"My recruitment has changed to getting local lads involved with the club," he explained.
"I just think it makes sense if you can get local lads involved that are a similar standard it would suggest they will stick around for longer.
"We want to keep building this team together."
Bury St Edmunds are set to host higher-league neighbours Cambridge on Saturday (3pm) in their last warm-up friendly ahead of their National League 2 South 2021/22 campaign kicking off at home to Canterbury the following weekend.
Of the returning players, second row Green has been playing at Nottingham Trent University before turning out for Nottingham in the Championship while fly half Forrest has been experiencing rugby out in Spain.