OXFORD Harlequins and Oxford will begin new chapters this weekend after plans for the rugby clubs to merge failed to materialise.

Quins began sharing the facilities at the Southern Bypass Ground when the City of Oxford Rugby Partnership was set up in 2006.

Two years later, Quins’ first XV matches were also moved to North Hinksey Lane and in 2011 – after Oxford’s first team played their final competive match – plans were tabled for the clubs to merge.

A working group was formed, but five years on, the proposal has not materialised and the clubs are once again going their separate ways.

David Bagnall, Oxford RFC chairman and former chair of the joint committee, said: “The objective was that we were going to blend the two clubs.

“It did not happen that way, it just drifted into what we are now.”

Quins decided at their AGM in July that they would return to Marston Ferry Road and will play their first home match there in seven years against Salisbury in South West 1 East on Saturday.

They will continue to train at Hinksey, while the third and fourth teams will also occasionally play at the Southern Bypass Ground, under a rental agreement for the next 12 months.

For Quins, it means the first team will now play their home games on neighbouring pitches to their junior and minis sections, while £10,000 has been spent on improving the facilities, including reseeding the main pitch.

Chairman, Neil Hopper, said: “The seniors, minis and juniors have never been on the same site – they were not joined up.

“It was always my plan to link the two together and go back where we started from and build the club from under sixes to the first team.”

Head of rugby, Alan Hancock, added: “The bigger picture for this season is to bring in the youth.

“Now we have moved to Marston Ferry Road, we’re using all the same facilities and forging those links with the minis and junior set-up.”

Meanwhile, Oxford, who were founded in 1909, play their first competitive match in four years at Littlemore in the BB&O Championship.

Assistant coach, Simon Bagnall, said: “It is good for the club to be back after such a long time out.

“We had 20 friendlies last year, but found it tough to get a side out all the time.

“A lot of people thought we were Harlequins. Hopefully they will realise this year that Oxford are back.”