Coventry's ever-keen eye for talent spotting turned inward yesterday when they secured the services of two of this season's key players.
Fly-half Jon Higgins and prop Kisi Pulu committed themselves to play at Butts Park Arena for the next National One campaign putting the club even further down the line in their preparations to hit the ground running in September.
They have gone about there recruitment speedily so far this month having added big names signings in Glasgow winger David Millard and Neath-Swansea Ospreys centre Dave Tiueti to two other new three-quarters - former Sale Sharks Josh Taumalolo and James Moore.
Their haste is an effort to avoid the slow start that has constrained their last two seasons and the signing of Higgins in particular, will go a long way to ensuring the 2005-06 season gets off on the right foot.
The 23-year-old came to Coventry on loan from Worcester in November and, although he was released by the Sixways side, he had impressed enough people during his 17 appearances to make his retention a priority.
The club may not be able to give him Premiership rugby next season but Higgins is more than happy to continue his successful tenure in the Coventry No 10 shirt.
"I just had to do some thinking about my future and I'm very pleased to be staying here," said Higgins.
"With the squad that is being assembled here and Mike Umaga staying as head coach, I felt it was the right place to be.
"I like the style of rugby, I think the supporters do as well, and if we can take it into next season we are going to be dangerous.
"I'm already looking forward to the start of next season which is something I've not said for a long time."
Indeed not. Higgins had not featured for Worcester at all before November and has played just a handful of games in the two years prior to that.
As soon as he had signed yesterday, loosehead Pulu departed for New Zealand where he will be playing for Tonga in their Tri Nations tournament against Samoa and Fiji.
"It's been really good here and I think we will be very strong next season," said the 26-year-old, who only missed one of Cov's 30 games and is delighted that fellow Tongan internationals Tiueti and Taumalolo have also joined.
"It'll be awesome to play with guys from their high level and I'm looking forward to it." Also in National One, Pertemps Bees' director of rugby, Phil Maynard, has said that the key to Harlequins' prospects at level two will be the preservation of their current squad.
"Quins were relegated to the First Division for the first time in their history last weekend and will now be forced to visit some of rugby's less-grand outposts as they seek to regain their elite status," he said.
"They will need to retain between 60-70 per cent of their squad if they are to go straight back up again - which is a big ask," said Maynard.
"They will have to set their stall out to be very professional in this division because, although it might not seem like it, there are definitely some stumbling blocks."
But they will receive a helping hand in the form of a £1.5 million parachute payment which already puts them well ahead of the vast majority of the league.
"A Premiership club coming down should probably go back up at the first attempt, especially with that kind of money."
The beleaguered Londoners were yesterday given a double boost after captain Andre Vos agreed to stay after negotiating a new contract and longterm sponsors NEC also
appeared poised to commit to a new deal.
Vos, the former South Africa captain, has been an influential figure at The Stoop this season and his loyalty boosts the club's hopes of making an immediate return to the top flight.
Meanwhile the future of Nuneaton director of rugby Chris Tarbuck will become clearer over the next ten days.
The Liberty Way outfit were relegated from National Two last weekend and will have to assess their budget before talks begin with the former Leicester and London Scottish No 8. n Gloucester have completed the signing of Pau fly-half Ludovic Mercier on a threeyear contract. The 28-yearold spent two seasons at Kingsholm between 2001 and 2003.
* Scotland and Lions prop Tom Smith, aged 33, has announced his retirement from international rugby.