JOE Rees is to ease the burden on Alan Manning by skippering Bournemouth on the pitch during the upcoming campaign.

Lions will be led by Rees when they begin their South West Premier assault at home to Newbury Blues on Saturday, September 2.

Bournemouth boss Will Croker said: "Alan Manning is going to be our gold squad captain. He is going to be in charge of player welfare in terms of the mental approach to the game and then Joe Rees is going to captain us on the pitch.

"We just wanted to freshen it up a bit. Joe has been such a huge part of the club for such a long time and his commute from the Isle of Wight is well known and needed rewarding.

"Alan has done such an incredible job but I think even he was finding it difficult to keep re-energising himself to do all the speeches and that sort of stuff.

"We wanted to keep him involved and he will be an integral part of everything we do.

"But it will be nice for him to have a fresh challenge and look at it slightly more holistically, rather than be amongst the muck and bullets, and he can concentrate on being the great player he is."

Bournemouth started their pre-season campaign with a 76-7 victory over Witney at Chapel Gate on Saturday.

The Oxfordshire outfit finished fifth in the division below the Lions last season and arrived with good intent and organisation.

However, Bournemouth proved too strong and ran out comfortable winners.

Witney took the lead early when a pass from Rees was intercepted, allowing their full-back to run in from 40 metres.

But the hosts then took control and good passages of play saw several scores before the end of the first quarter, notably from newcomer Leon Esera, Ali Bennett, Sam Hardcastle and Freddie Gleadowe.

Bournemouth fielded no fewer than 30 players as an enlarged squad and the rotations made did not seem to stop the flow. Croker said: "We are delighted with that as a starting point. Witney are not a bad side and, even though they had several missing, so did we.

"To see the guys step up in the absence of Wyn Roberts, Grant Hancox and Toby Kenneally, to name a few, was great.

"We saw the players pick up from where they left off last season. Often, there is a regression in the close season that takes some time to re-establish but, this year, we have looked to just kick on and add layers of play to what was existing.

"I was really pleased to see several of the new faces play their part and Leon Esera, Stephen Jenkinson and Adam Macdonald all acquitted themselves really well."

Lions will take part in a round robin involving Havant and London Irish Wild Geese which forms the centre piece for the club's family day at Chapel Gate on Saturday, August 19.