DUDLEY Kingswinford’s season opener with Otley is almost must-win — according to coach Jon Higgins.

Heathbrook plays host to its first National Two North fixture this Saturday as DK entertain the Yorkshire outfit.

Two consecutive promotions have seen DK rocket to the fourth tier and Higgins knows home form will be vital in what promises to be a tough campaign.

He said: “It does sound ridiculous but these are the games we can’t afford to lose if we are going to compete this year.

“Winning on Saturday will make a huge difference to us going forward. It will help us get the ball rolling and we know home form is going to be all important.

“Last year we lost our first game in National Three because we weren’t quite prepared for the level.

“Hopefully this time around we have a better understanding of where we need to be.”

With rivals Stourbridge taking their place in the league along with Bromsgrove and Birmingham and Solihull the stage is set for a fascinating season.

DK have added a number of new faces including back row Joe Carpenter, winger Liam Marshall and hooker Dan Kirby from Newport. Another winger, Rhys Pritchard, has joined from Bromsgrove with centre Matt Humpries arriving from Malvern.

But they have lost influential prop Stefan Thorp to Moseley.

Higgins added: “The players we have added are going to make us better.

“But we could still do with more forwards, especially in the front-five because it’s where we are light.

“In the backs we are probably as strong as we have ever been.

“But we are going to come up against a lot of bigger packs this season and how we cope with that will be key.”