RUGBY may currently be in the grip of the freeze, but excitement is growing at both Darlington clubs ahead of big events.

Preparations for Mowden Park’s first match in the 25,000-seat Northern Echo Arena next week are well advanced, while Darlington are looking forward to staging the town’s first international.

Mowden have already alerted the RFU to their wish to stage England Saxons and England Women’s games, pointing out they will have the biggest rugby stadium in England outside Twickenham.

But it is Blackwell Meadows which will host the Under-18 international between England and Scotland on Sunday, March 3.

The England coaches will take clinics over the weekend with Darlington’s junior and mini teams and it is hoped to attract a big crowd to the match, which could feature Yarm School’s Zach Kibirige.

Also in the England Under- 18 squad are winger Sean Brown, who joined Mowden from Ryton last summer, and Barnard Castle School student Jonny Coser. They are in the North squad for a game against the Midlands at Rugby on Sunday.

Ahead of their big day, Mowden are taking bookings from members for a pre-match meal in the President’s Suite, formerly the Ron Greener Suite. The indications are that all 30 hospitality boxes will be sold, while 150 will be seated in the main suite.

In trying to get everything shipshape at the Arena, Mowden are even looking into the possibility of getting the undersoil heating working.

They will have an extra match to fit in at their new ground after the farewell fixture at Yiewsley Drive, against Huddersfield, was frozen off last week.

They are due to visit National Two North’s bottom club, Stockport, tomorrow before facing what promises to be a tough baptism at the Arena against Bromsgrove. The Midlanders defied their mid-table position last Saturday by winning 21-12 at Stourbridge, who had taken maximum points from all their previous games.

Darlington’s home match against Old Crossleyans also fell of the weather last Saturday and prospects for tomorrow’s trip to Morpeth look gloomy.

g Former Darlington playercoach Craig Lee, who has been coaching Stockton for the past few seasons, has left Cleveland Fire Brigade to take up a position in the Middle East. His elder brother Paul and flanker Martin Howe, who also played for Darlington, have taken overcoaching duties at Stockton.