A PROFESSIONAL star tasked with improving amateur players at Knutsford is confident they have laid a foundation for future success, writes Andrew Simpson.

Will Cliff, a scrum-half for Sale Sharks in the English Premiership, told the Guardian that practice at the training ground had been worth it after Blues finished fifth at the end of their first season in the North West Intermediate League’s Division Three South.

He was appointed as a coach, along with Chris Edmonds, at the club last summer.

“The lads have bought into what we wanted to do,” said Cliff.

“We tried initially to put the emphasis on developing their skills before introducing a structure to both the attacking and defensive side of their game.

“They reacted really well, and without a doubt we’ve seen them take a massive step forward.”

Knutsford stepped up to a higher level at the end of last term after being promoted for a second successive year.

They have won half of their 22 matches, a tally they will attempt to better next time around.

Cliff, who is 30, is optimistic they can do that now they have in place a pattern of play that works.

He said: “The biggest change that Chris and I made was to develop that structure.

“It is similar to what we do at the highest level, just a simpler version that helps Knutsford to manage the game and to be more efficient given the effort the guys put in.

“We knew that if everybody is on the same page, and understands the strategy, then they’ll become a better team.”

Cliff, who has extended a contract with Sale until 2022, has enjoyed being part of a grassroots club attempting to move through the ranks again after resigning from the RFU’s Northern Division in 2016.

They continue to attract new players and have a bigger pool to pick from each week.

“My first impression was positive because I could see what a diverse bunch they are,” added Cliff.

“They epitomise what social rugby should be about and that’s guys keen to play for each other and have fun.

“The other thing that struck me was how they welcome new faces, irrespective of their age or ability – it's a small community of its own that includes within it some decent players too.”

Knutsford concluded the campaign with wins against Capenhurst (59-34) and Village Spartans (31-29) to sign off for the summer on an optimistic note.

Cliff saw the penultimate game.

He added: “The boys’ handling helped them cut apart a decent opponent.”