Player-coach Matt Shields believes Carlisle Rugby Club have individuals who can play North Premier rugby.

At Warwick Road, Carlisle will be confirmed as North One West champions after their clash against bottom side De La Salle this afternoon (3pm kick-off) after their last league fixture this term.

After replacing David Stout last summer, former Harlequins man Shields set his sights on promotion and has now achieved that goal. While the 28-year-old wants his troops to celebrate this season’s success, he already has plans in place for next term.

“There is myself, Max [Connon], Grant [Connon] and Chris [Auld] that have played at that level,” he said. “And you also have players who are more than capable of playing at that level, the likes of Henry Wainwright, James Telford, Dan and Josh Holmes – there's a long list of players who are more than capable of playing at that level.

“So, I’m not concerned in any way that they won’t be able to cope. I think the squad is more than good enough as it currently is to push on.

"With the developments we are going to make with our game plan to suit the players we have, I’m very confident we can aim for a top-six finish next year, that’s what we are looking for.”

When asked when plans for their 2019/2020 season will start, Shields added: “To be honest, I have been planning since last pre-season.

"I knew what I wanted to do this year in terms of our game plan and what I wanted to introduce. I knew, back then, what I was going to introduce this summer for next year.

"It’s always in the back of your mind as a coach to be planning and preparing for what maybe occurring.

“For us, the next level will just be another level of our game plan, so [that will mean some] slight changes to some of our attack and defence, and some of our strike moves which you would expect now the players are at a capable level.

“You can never go from zero to 100, you need short-term and long-term goals. We had a 24-month plan set out when I took over the role and we are halfway through that now. I already know what we will be changing next year.”

With Carlisle once again set to make changes as they take on the Salford side, meaning they have not been able to name the same team for successive matches at any stage this campaign, Shields hailed the strength in depth in his squad.

He said: “As I said at Christmas, with teams complaining about injuries, we still haven’t – and won’t be able to today – name an unchanged team all season.

"That’s very rare in sport to go 26 rounds and not have an unchanged team once.

“We have had so many injuries and so many unavailabilities but that’s a pleasing thing for me looking back as a coach, is to say that the lads who came in knew what was expected of them. They have delivered.

"There are some players at the start of the season who you probably wouldn’t have considered as regular first-team players but they have actually taken their opportunity and now they are playing really, really well, and they absolutely deserve their place.”

Regardless of this weekend’s result, there is sure to be joyous scenes at Carlisle tonight.

“We are putting on a drink promotion evening as well for anyone who wants to invite their friends, family or sponsors down,” he said.

“I think it’s really important that you celebrate the successes in sport. Too often, people focus on the negatives. We have had a brilliant season. I want everyone to remember that and have a good party tonight.

“Although first and foremost, we want to get the job done on the pitch. De La Salle aren’t going to come up and roll over.

"They have been relegated from this league for some time, but they will want to go out from this league with a bang and they will want to cause an upset.

“We will need to make sure we are on our game, as we have been all season.”