WELLINGTON are “up for the challenge” of playing at South West 1 West level next season, the Red & Blacks having been crowned Western Counties West champions this year.

Their title win was only confirmed earlier this month, with the Rugby Football Union (RFU) basing promotion and relegation on a playing record formula, after the season was terminated due to coronavirus.

Wellington coach Allyn Chetland said: “There was a little bit of concern, as we didn’t know what the RFU would decide.

“But when we found out we were champions, the players and coaching staff were all over the moon.

“There were a lot of virtual pints being drunk!”

A move up to Level 6 in the English rugby pyramid is some change in fortunes for the Red & Blacks, who were relegated from Western Counties West at the end of the 2016/17 season.

They came straight back up, though, and were only denied the title in 2018/19 by a points deduction.

Reflecting on that turnaround, Chetland said: “It’s been a combination of things - we’ve had a really good Under-18s team coming up, and they’ve all matured together, getting bigger, stronger and fitter.

“We’ve also brought in people with experience - Bill Sherwin as director of rugby and Nic Sestaret as coach - to help [1st XV head coach] Graham Dawe, Tim Jenkinson and myself.

“We were very unlucky last year, but the boys were determined to right that wrong, and they put in some great performances this year.

“We like to play a quick, open game, and we did that despite the difficult weather conditions and heavy pitches this year.

“We also have the full backing of the club committee and spectators, which makes a big difference.

“Martin Walker has moved from second row to prop this year and had a great season, but it’s difficult to pick out individuals.

“It’s been a big squad effort and 2nd XV players have done well on coming up, and some have kept their place - having a strong squad really does pay dividends.”

Looking ahead to playing in South West 1 West, Chetland added: “I think the boys are buzzing for it.

“We’re looking at four local derbies - against Bridgwater & Albion, Crediton, North Petherton and Sidmouth.

“It will be a massive challenge, but the boys are up for it and I’m confident in their ability."

In terms of likely comings and goings in the squad, Chetland said: “It’s a bit of an unknown at the moment, but no-one is retiring or moving away so I would expect a similar squad.

“Anyone who is interested in joining is welcome to come down and have a look, but we’re not actively seeking out new players.”