SCRUM-HALF Ollie Monye is expecting another brutal clash when fourth-placed Sedgley Park visit Old Bath Road for Rams’ first National One clash of 2024 on Saturday (3pm).

The Manchester men have enjoyed a superb campaign since earning promotion as National Two North champions, winning nine of their 14 games to date during an eye-catching return to the third tier.

And Monye, who was joined by flanker Ben Atkins in the BBC Radio Berkshire studio at the weekend, told Saturday Sport host Rita Green: “It’ll be a great game. I don’t know if anyone other than Sedgley expected them to do as well as they have done, but they’re very well drilled, (Coach) Scott Barrow was my Head of Academy when I signed with Wasps at Under 18s and he’s an astute man.

“He’s a great coach who drives their attack massively and in the first game we probably haven’t had a match where we’ve had to defend for so many phases.

“It was brutal, everyone had to constantly get up, make tackles, and it’s going to be another grinding game.

“It will be close, and I’m excited for it.”

It is Rams’ first fixture since their 21-7 pre-Christmas derby defeat at new table-toppers Chinnor on December 15, the squad returning to training last week with Monye admitting to split feelings on the time off.

The ex-Oratory School ace explained: “The break was needed for everyone, it’s a very intense league and the body is always sore after the weekend, so it was nice to have some time off.

“But at the same time, we’d had a good run of form (before Chinnor) and then you want to keep going.

“The atmosphere in training has been excellent and we’re looking forward to getting back to it.”

Summer signing Atkins, meanwhile, who has enjoyed a fine first half to the season in which he has seven tries in 14 appearances, is also wary of the quality of opponent which lies in wait.

He added: “Sedgley were a side we didn’t know a lot about – I’ve played loads of rugby and they were a team I hadn’t come across, but they’ve come up to National One and done well.

“They make very few mistakes and while we were able to get the win there earlier in the season, they’re a very physical, aggressive side who stay in the game – they don’t go away and they try and grind you down.

“They’re a bit like us and I expect the game to be won and lost in a few very small moments, it’s going to be a big test.”