DIRECTOR of rugby Will Croker wants ambitious Bournemouth to use Cherries as a blueprint for success.

Croker revealed the Chapel Gate outfit had tapped into their footballing Premier League neighbours ahead of their 125th anniversary campaign.

The Lions unveiled a new red and black strip at the start of this season when the club was also rebranded and relaunched.

They are currently flying high near the top of South West Premier and have already booked a place in the final of the Hampshire Cup.

Croker said: “We changed our kit colours partly because it is our 125th year and the club used to wear red and black but it also made sense to align ourselves with the football club.

“AFC Bournemouth has such a great reputation as a family club and you only have to go to games to see the large number of children there.

“It is not a bastion of machismo, it is a real family event and we have enjoyed being able to watch the club’s rise through the leagues.

“As a rugby club in the same town, we looked at it and asked ourselves why we were not doing the same things and why we were not getting out into the community.

“Now, we are out in the schools, we attend community events and our commercial team is very active in the area.

“It is about making rugby not just 15 blokes kicking lumps out of each other. It is about showing people that rugby is a real family and we want to make people feel welcome.

“We have followed the football club’s lead on that and really want to push on with it.

“We have a huge catchment area so need to tap into it. The only way you can do that is by letting people know you are there and getting out to them.”

Croker and his team – which includes his brother James as chief executive – have transformed the club over the past 12 months and are keen to keep it going.

“It has been a really exciting year and I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings,” added Croker.

“It has been a big building block in terms of establishing the team. We had a lot of changes in personnel over the summer and lost some guys to retirement.

“While we kept the core of the side, we have had quite a few new faces and they have bedded in really well.

“We have a good following, the numbers on the gate are going up all the time and sponsorship is through the roof compared with where it has ever been before.

“We want to create that buzz. The football club did an amazing job and showed us how to go about it.

“You get into the community and appeal to local peoples’ hearts and minds. They buy into it and we are trying to do something very similar.

“I am very proud of the job we are doing. It has been a really big year for the club and 2018 is going to be exciting.

“We have an opportunity to kick on in the second half of the season and it is a good time to be a part of this club.”

Lions resume their South West Premier campaign against Weston-super-Mare at Chapel Gate on Saturday (2pm).