IT'S true that we haven’t even reached the longest day yet, but the new rugby season has moved a tantalising step closer with the announcement of Colchester Rugby Club’s first team fixtures, writes EDWARD MARRIAGE.

After clinching promotion to the fifth level of English rugby Colchester find themselves in a brand new league, following a wholesale reorganisation of the community game by the RFU.

The new league, Regional 1 South East, is largely based on the former London and South East Premier, containing the likes of Hertford, Westcombe Park and Sidcup.

Of the promoted sides, Colchester are joined by three other teams from the old London 1 North - Shelford, Sudbury and Harpenden - plus Medway from London 1 South and Bedford Athletic from Midlands 1 East.

The new league has 12 teams compared with 14 last season, as the RFU seek to “reduce the travel burden for players and clubs.”

It also means there are more breaks throughout the season.

Colchester kick-off the season on September 3 with a home match against familiar opponents, Harpenden.

The last time the sides met at Raven Park Colchester fought back from 33 points down to win 44-43 - a repeat would be a grand way to launch their new campaign!

The following week Colchester travel to Sidcup, who finished mid-table in London and South East Premier, with Bedford Athletic the visitors on September 17.

Matches against our nearest neighbours Sudbury are always eagerly anticipated - still more this season given Colchester’s new head coach, Craig Burrows, joined the club from The Blues after leading them to promotion last season.

Colchester visit Sudbury on September 24 while the return fixture is the traditional pre-Christmas match at Raven Park on December 17.

Probably the club’s biggest challenge will be the games against Hertford, who narrowly missed out on promotion to level four last season.

The home match is on October 22, with the away fixture on January 21.

Colchester RFC fixtures: Sep 3 Harpenden (h); Sep 10 Sidcup (a); Sep 17 Bedford Ath (h); Sep 24 Sudbury (a); Oct 1 Shelford (h); Oct 15 Medway (a); Oct 22 Hertford (h); Oct 29 Tunbridge Wells (a); Nov 5 CS Stags 1863 (h); Nov 12 Tring (a); Nov 26 Westcombe Park (h); Dec 3 Sidcup (h); Dec 10 Bedford Ath (a); Dec 17 Sudbury (h); Jan 7 Shelford (a); Jan 14 Medway (h); Jan 21 Hertford (a); Jan 28 Tunbridge Wells (h); Feb 11 CS Stags 1863 (a); Feb 18 Tring (h); Mar 4 Westcombe Park (a); Mar 11 Harpenden (a).