Oxfordshire begin their Pool 3 campaign with head coach Craig Burrows optimistic this year’s squad are better placed than 12 months ago.
They take on Berkshire at Newbury RFC tomorrow (3), before hosting Dorset & Wilts at Witney RFC next weekend.
A core of players, including skipper James Eckert, have remained from the squad which finished third in the four-team group last year.
Burrows believes it will provide a boost this time around.
He said: “We have tried to keep as much continuity in the side from last year.
“It was tough last year with Grove being in the play-offs, so we missed those boys for the first game.
“We have a stronger squad than last year.”
Oxfordshire hammered Ber-kshire 50-10 in their final game last season, but tomorrow’s hosts looked strong in beating Dorset & Wilts 37-18 last weekend.
For Burrows, this will be the pivotal fixture in deciding which side progresses to the next stage.
He said: “We’re definitely underdogs in this game.
“We convincingly beat them last year, but they’re a different team now.
“With county rugby it comes down to who hits the ground running, so Berkshire have an advantage with playing last week.
“We just have to make sure we are strong defensively.”
Oxon: H Day, G Nicholl, T Clipsham, J Bellinger (all Grove), J Robinson (Oxford Harlequins), M Clarke (Witney), E Phillips (Banbury), J Eckert (capt, Grove), S Dixie (Grove), J Burke (WItney), L Brown (Quins), A Purchase (Quins), C Chilvers (Grove), D Wells (Grove), R Gratwohl (Grove). Reps: M Walsh (Grove), D Spencer (Bicester), R Haire (Grove), J Mills (Banbury), J Chilvers (Grove), J Monks (Witney) S Peel (Grove).