IT’S not until you look beyond the starting XV until we fully appreciate what it takes to run a club in the fourth tier of English rugby union.

The 100-plus volunteers involved with Tynedale RFC might seem like a lot of people, but when you consider the club has four senior teams, 15 girls’ and boys’ teams from U6 upwards, and a ladies’ touch rugby side, it’s hardly a surprise.

Half of the volunteers involved at Tynedale are coaches, while the other 50 per cent is made up of fund-raisers, gate stewards, people who run the bar and catering facilities, and those who carry out essential maintenance and repair work to pitches, buildings and facilities.

This long-established rugby community has evolved through the generations, and chairman Neil Foster recalls the club overcoming huge challenges in the past.

Many people associated with the club are from a farming background, and the devastating foot and mouth outbreak of 2001 led to challenges for the rugby club.

“That was a very difficult situation,” recalled Mr Foster, “and the circumstances were very similar in some ways.

“A lot of farmers were in isolation, we could not play rugby or travel.”

After the foot and mouth crisis, the club went on to gain promotion into the national leagues, and finished in the top five of National League Division One, the third tier of English rugby union, for three successive seasons between 2008 and 2011.

This season has already seen remarkable levels of success for Tynedale’s junior teams. The vast potential for the future, together with the club’s rich history, will ensure there’s much to fight for.