SOUTHEND Saxons are setting their sights on winning promotion from London One North this season, according to their director of rugby Josh Ward.

Southend finished sixth in the standings last term.

But Ward is certain his side - who are back in pre-season training - can be pushing towards the top of the table this time around.

“We’re realistic but we’re hugely ambitious too,” said Ward.

“I’m an ambitious person and so are my staff and the players.

“We’re doing things our way and when we get back to where we want to be, which is the national leagues, we want to stay there.

“I believe we can do that and I believe we will take big strides this season to be in the frame to go up.

“That’s certainly the aim of the group.”

However, Ward knows just how tough the games will be this season.

“The league is the toughest it’s been for a long time with some very good teams,” said Ward.

“It’s going to be a huge challenge but we’ve got 45 guys out there training who all want to be part of that challenge.

“We’re not here to make the numbers up. We’re a massive club with a lot of history and we’re proud to be part of the club.

“The club is 150 years old and we all want to do well. By the time we get to September we will be in a position to compete.”

Southend started their pre-season work with fitness testing at the ABC gym in Eastwood at the end of June.

But the squad are now back out on the Warners Bridge pitch, sharpening their skills for what lies ahead.

“The boys are now in their second week of field training,” said Ward.

“We have one more week of block one but the fourth week is an alternate week and we’ll have a social night because we’re big on the culture and environment side.

“We will spend some time together away from rugby and after that the next block takes us into our pre-season fixtures and we will have some guest coaches coming down too.

“There’s a really good buzz and everyone is enjoying themselves.”

Southend will take on Bury St Edmunds twice in pre-season along with Saffron Walden and Canvey Island in the Ken Light Memorial Trophy.

And Ward is pleased with the squad he has put together.

“We’ve recruited a few and there are still three or four we’re looking to bring in,” said Ward.

“We’ve kept hold of 95 per cent of the squad from last year and that’s a really good thing.

“At this level players come and go due to work, relocating or whatever.

“There are a couple of guys we’ve had to say goodbye to which is a shame but we’ve got a really good blend of youth and experience. Everyone wants to be here and be part of the project.”