FRANK TAGGART hopes a tough pre-season has set Brighton up for life in London and South East Premier.

The Blues take a step into the unknown tomorrow when they kick off at home to Hertford at level five for the first time after promotion via the play-offs last term.

Player-coach Taggart admits it is now crunch time after a pre-season when it was about looking at all the options.

Taggart told The Argus: “Pre-season has been pretty testing. We have had a lot of absences.

“We have had about four weddings within the squad and also a couple of new-borns, but, through all that, it has been pretty good.

“I am pretty happy with where we are at the moment and we’re in a much better place compared to this time last year.

“We had some encouraging games in pre-season, which tested us in many ways, but now we have turned our attention to the league opener and what it all comes down to.

“This is where it matters. This is where the points come in, this is where the performances comes in.

“Up until now we have not been too bothered by any scorelines throughout pre-season because the priority was the development and the performances that the team put in.”

A look at the club website gave little away in terms of results as Blues took on the likes of Horsham, Brentwood and Westcliffe but that was by design.

Taggart said: “It was all about seeing where we are at as a squad.

“In pre-season we have had a number of guys that have come in and we have had to look at different combinations.

“That naturally creates inconsistency but players also need game time.

“As a management team we have dealt with that well.

“It’s week one now, everyone is back and they are back into their normal routine, so everyone is really looking forward to it.

“The energy we have brought into training is momentum into Saturday.”

Taggart and director of rugby Tudor Ellis know the task facing the club as it plots a path up through the rugby structure.

This season will be about getting a foothold to build on but before pre-season began Ellis also wanted Blues to be capable of tripping up their opponents.

Taggart said: “You have to be realistic and this league is going to be a massive step up to what the club has experienced before.

“If we are honest with ourselves, the main aim is to stay in the league and also position ourselves into a decent finish.

“But, like (director of rugby) Tudor has said before, we would like to the banana skin side and be that team that others don’t really know what to expect against.

“We are a young and exciting side which is fairly new to the league, so teams won’t know what to expect from us. We are going in blind but they will be too.

“It’s a pretty exciting opportunity for us and in terms of aspirations, on a personal, club and team level, we want to be pushing ourselves in the national leagues and this is a taster for us and a new experience.

“It is something we need to take in our stride too.”

Many of last season’s promotion winners will be making the step, while there will be new faces.

At least one player who has been lined will not arrive until October.

Blues’ rise has given them more pulling power according to Taggart.

He said: “We have some new faces and some still to join us who will add an additional buzz to the squad.

“We also have the senior guys who experienced the promotion last year too, which brings a knock-on effect, and the atmosphere is good.

“We shall focus on what we have at the moment and when the guys come in as agreed, they will be great additions to the squad.”

He added: “We have attracted a few nice players and not really had to go out looking.

“People have heard of us now. We are trying to establish ourselves in the higher league and with last season’s promotion, we shall naturally attract some players.

“But we have that one club mentality and welcome all players.”