IT is all change at Shap Road this year as Kendal RUFC welcomes three new members to the backroom staff - including its youngster ever coach.

At 22, former Sedbergh School captain Chris Downham has been appointed Head Coach while ex-Hull and Worcester Warriors second-row Phil Murphy has been given the role of set-piece coach and Stuart Wilkinson, who played professional rugby at scrum-half for Leeds Rhinos, is the new backs coach.

Director of rugby Steve Whitehead said: "We want to develop a new brand of rugby that meant we had to recruit better. Looking towards the future and to develop younger players we needed a more professional outlook so we've got a very young determined coach supported by two lads that have both been at the top of the spectrum in terms of coaching and playing."

The playing career of Downham, a former Queen Katherine School pupil whose father Ian turned out for Kendal in the 1990s, has been plagued with injury.

He made appearances for England u16s and u18s, led Sedbergh on a South African tour, was on Newcastle Falcons books and also coached rugby union and league at Durham University.

But he has now turned his attention towards coaching.

Whitehead added: "Until last season I didn't know too much about him until he came back to the area for holidays. He played once or twice for us last year but he's got fairly chronic injuries that prevent long-term injuries but he can play sporadically.

"Then we started talking about what he wanted to do when he finished his degree in Durham and it was elite coaching so it all came together nicely."

Whitehead admitted there were some initial concerns about whether Downham, who has been given a Land Rover by Kentdale Land Rover to go into Kirkbie Kendal and Queen Katherine Schools to help develop links, was experienced enough for the role.

But he insisted the players are fully behind the project.

"It was apparent through discussions he is a real student of the game," said Whitehead. "He is driven and has a brilliant character.

"He's very conscientious and what he has achieved in sport so far he has taken to the highest level.

"He's a very young coach of people who have played more rugby at senior level but at Kendal we are very lucky because the lads are committed to what they do.

"At the outset there was one or two raised eyebrows thinking can he coach at senior level but I think with pre-season largely over now the lads have been very impressed with his planning and drive.

"I played rugby with Chris' father who played in the same position I did. I spent many seasons sat on the bench waiting to come on for him so it's quite a surprise to some I've put all the confidence into his son."

Just one warm-up match remains before Kendal's North One West campaign kicks off on September 5 away at Leigh.

Their first friendly ended in a 59-5 romp at home to North Ribblesdale, but Saturday saw them lose 24-17 to an organised Bradford and Bingley outfit.

"I never like losing but the test was needed," said Whitehead. "They brought a big strong Yorkshire pack that were powerful and well-coached."