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Richmond captain Warden on full alert for next test of endurance 

Richmond retained their Championship status last season but club captain Will Warden reckons doing so again will pose a greater challenge.

Being the only amateur side in the second tier, the odds were stacked against the 2016 National One champions with relegation seeming inevitable.

The London Welsh fiasco handed them a lifeline with relegation frozen for a year, but they still wanted to avoid finishing last and prove they deserved to be in the league regardless.

They put all their efforts into catching Rotherham and did so in the penultimate round with a 35-32 win over the Cornish Pirates to seal tenth place – leaving Warden in fear of second-season syndrome.

“Mentally, it was massive for us to finish above Rotherham so we stayed in the league on merit,” he said. “And I thought we deserved it because of our second half to the season.

“We expect this season to be tougher so we’ve been working hard to make sure we’re up to the challenge and don’t suffer that second season syndrome.

“The element of surprise will be gone and all the teams in the league now know how we play. We might carry some fatigue from last season, too.

“But we’ll have a similar squad of players with a full season of Championship rugby behind them. It took us some time to adapt to the league and the style of rugby required. Playing London Irish in the second game of the season was a bit of an eye opener!

“We quickly worked out that we’d get punished for every mistake we made and once we learnt that, we were able to compete.”

It took the Londoners ten games to pick up their first win last season, against Athletic Ground rivals London Scottish, but Warden is targeting a faster start this September with two homes games in the opening rounds against Bedford and Ealing.

He added: “I’d like to think we’ll be able to compete and get a win under our belt as early as possible.

“We’re starting with two homes games but Bedford play nice rugby so they’ll be a very good team.

“We’ll have to be on point from the off if we want to have the good start we’re after.”

On Thursday, Warden will take a break from pre-season training to cycle to Paris with seven of his teammates to raise money for the Sebastian Adeniran-Olule Charitable Fund.

He added: “The passing of Seb last year (in a car accident) was just awful. He gave a lot to the club and we were keen to raise more money for the Charitable Fund set up in his name. Eight of us are heading for Paris.

“We might stop to watch the third Lions Test but we’re expecting to reach the Arc de Triomphe by Saturday lunchtime.”

To donate please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/RFC-to-Paris

NICK VERDIER

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