FORMER Basingstoke RFC director of rugby Ian Calder has been welcomed back into the first team - just a month after 'Stoke bosses ruled out his return.

On October 8, The Gazette reported how 'Stoke's five-strong playing committee had rejected an offer from "Ruffy" to bolster the ailing first team squad, which is yet to win a league game this season.

The committee felt any comeback would disrupt first team senior coach Jim Dixon and his brief to build for the future by developing a young side.

But with 'Stoke languishing at the bottom of London division one after seven successive defeats, there has been a U-turn at Down Grange.

Various 'Stoke supporters and certain players have led the chorus for the 38-year-old Kiwi's inclusion after he left Bracknell and offered his services to 'Stoke.

Calder is now set to play tomorrow against Thanet Wanderers - but at centre instead of his preferred fly-half berth.

Explaining the change of heart, Dixon explained: "We need to start winning games. A second successive relegation is unthinkable given all the off-the-pitch progress taking place.

"I think Ian could play well at outside centre next to Vincent Feausi because he will bring a bit more defence and communication out wide. Our wide defence is an area where we've been weakest."

Calder has been playing for the 'Stoke thirds - the Griffins - since he left national two side Bracknell five weeks ago.

He departed when the Berkshire outfit ran into financial difficulty and could no longer pay players' travelling costs. Calder was also backs coach at the Berkshire club.

His presence back at Basingstoke for training and matches led to a rumbling period of discontent with some people questioning why, given 'Stoke's form, a player of national rugby experience was being kept on the sidelines.

Calder - in charge at 'Stoke for three years before his tenure ended in May - this week said he is "a bit surprised" with the recent development given the previous rejection.

He said: "I don't really know the reasons why I've been asked back, but Jim did call me and said that it was a bit of a waste me playing for the threes.

"I've really enjoyed playing for them, because, at this stage of my career, I just want to play for my local team.

"I can do without all the travelling like I had with Bracknell.

"But I know I can do a job for the first team. I hope my experience as a player and person will help. It will be interesting to see how it goes as I've never played at 13 for the club."

Calder is not the only addition to Dixon's 18-strong squad for the visit of Thanet Wanderers, who lie just above 'Stoke in the table.

Another signing, Sebastian Berti, 26, arrived in Basingstoke on Wednesday after moving up from Cornwall - where he has played for Penzance and Newlyn - with his wife and two children.

His first training session last night was being used by Dixon to determine whether the Chilean international would start as scrum-half or fly-half - both troublesome spots for 'Stoke this season.

This weekend, 'Stoke will also be boosted by the return of second row Ross Stirling.

Flanker Simon Appleby has shaken off a minor injury and will resume at open-side, with Tom Northcote again at blindside.

Dixon said he was looking for an improved display from the pair in a game labelled a must-win match.

He added: "It's a very important game. We should have won our last two games but let ourselves down again.

"Against London Nigerians we gave away four tries and that was the game lost.

"We just need that one win under our belts and I'm sure things will turn around. The boys will be giving it their all."

Kick-off at Down Grange tomorrow is 2.30pm.

'Stoke squad: Steve Collins, Phil Perkins, Ian White, Matt Evans, Andy Wilson, Chris Hampson, Ross Stirling, Tom Northcote, Simon Appleby, Jim Dixon, Andy Byett, Sebastian Berti, Matt Lucas, Vincent Feausi, Ian Calder, Simon Buckland, Carl White, Ollie Rogers.