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Canterbury Rugby Club skipper Sean Stapleton shelved retirement and will now play in National League 1 next season

By Mark Stokes

Promotion capped a memorable debut season for Canterbury Rugby Club's Sean Stapleton but the skipper admitted he had been contemplating taking a break from the sport last summer.

The former Connacht academy player revealed he had thought about retiring before completing his move to the Marine Travel Ground from Bury St Edmunds for whom he had played against Canterbury on a couple of occasions.

He was handed the captaincy after Max Cantwell was ruled out by injury and admitted he could not have asked for a better campaign as Canterbury clinched promotion to National League 1 for the first time in their history.

Sean Stapleton celebrates victory over Chester with team-mate Tom Best Picture: Phillipa Hilton
Sean Stapleton celebrates victory over Chester with team-mate Tom Best Picture: Phillipa Hilton

Their place in rugby's third tier was sealed with Saturday's 19-10 play-off victory over Chester at Merton Lane.

Irishman Stapleton explained: “All in all it’s been a fantastic season and I’ve loved it here.

“I got a job opportunity (with Swegon Air Management in Whitstable) and I already knew (former Bury team-mates) Sam Sterling and Louis Whetton, both of whom were at the club.We kind of conversed about whether I was going to play rugby this year and I did have an idea of maybe quitting as I’m getting a bit over the hill now.

“I’m 30 though the body’s older but we decided to have one more crack and we really bought into it this season and it’s been a great year thankfully.

“The group is just such a fantastic group, everybody gets on so well. There are some fantastic boys in there who are prepared to give it their all and you saw that against Chester. People were out flat on their feet and they just kept going.”

Flanker Stapleton said the foundations for success were laid in pre-season and he also hailed the togetherness of the the squad which kept them just ahead of Juddians and Henley in the race for second place in National 2 South.

He added: “It’s not luck, we built on a lot on hard work during the off season.

Canterbury skipper Sean Stapleton in action during the play-off win against Chester Picture: Phillipa Hilton
Canterbury skipper Sean Stapleton in action during the play-off win against Chester Picture: Phillipa Hilton

“They put us through some gruelling drills in order to get our fitness levels where they needed to be and in this league, during the winter months, you just need to be grinding.

“We were lucky with injuries as well, we did not get too many bad ones throughout the year so we kept the squad quite tight and together. A tight knit group takes you a long way at this level.”

Stapleton says he and the squad will relish the chance to test themselves at the next level and they’re not going there to make the numbers up.

He added: “It’s another big challenge but we’re going to give it a big crack.

“If you’re not in you can’t win. We’re going to work hard, we’re going to enjoy it and fingers crossed we can have a good performance.”

Read more: All the latest sports news in Kent

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