Photo credit: Valley RFC
It is fair to say that for Valley, who bulldozed their way to a 5th-straight Premiership title in imperious fashion, the pressure to produce a similar performance to consolidate their burgeoning Premiership dynasty has never been higher.
With the likes of Kowloon and Hong Kong Scottish recruiting substantially over the summer in their respective bids to usurp the defending champions, the onus is on Valley to stay one step ahead of the game.
Youth seems to be the answer, as coach Andrew Kelly aims to this campaign as an opportunity to blood a batch of Hong Kong U-20 players including Thaddeus Summers, Paul Altier and Sam Jupp.
The trio of youngsters will look to prove their worth by making up for the major losses sustained as a result of Max Woodward's spell in Japan's top division, Ed Rolston's retirement and Ryan Meacheam's return to New Zealand, which has left the squad ostensibly weakened.
Photo credit: SCMP
Going in the opposite direction to Meacheam will be Sean Conner, a promising back with Mitre Cup experience capable of featuring in a number of positions.
Further bolstering Valley's depth is 21-year-old fly-half Hugo Stiles, who has returned from Bath University to add an element of agility to the Valley backs.
“I think we’ll be pretty keen to go again, we have a lot of young, determined guys coming through, so hopefully they will push the older guys and give them a bit of energy,” said Kelly.
“We’ve done well to retain pretty much all of our forwards, which is excellent. We do have a few backs spaces that we need to fill, but apart from that we should have another strong squad."
A baptism of fire awaits the fresh-faced additions to this season's Valley line-up charged with spearheading their latest title defence and Kelly will hope his charges not only emerge stronger, but with the Premiership trophy held aloft basking in champagne showers- a sight verging on becoming a formality.
Valley begin their title defence against USRC Tigers on 23rd September.