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Weather worries for the weekend programme
WHILE National Two North leaders Stourbridge feel they can afford an overnight stay for today's match at Darlington Mowden Park, Blaydon will be on the 8am London train for the top-of-the-table National One clash at Ealing.
Mowden will hope to raise the same army of volunteers who cleared the pitch for last month's visit of Huddersfield to ensure Stourbridge's trip is not in vain, while Blaydon might not get out of Newcastle station.
Ealing's pitch was waterlogged earlier in the week and they are inspecting at 7am to give Blaydon a verdict ahead of their scheduled departure.
It might prove a blessing for Blaydon if the match is off as travelling is unlikely to be straightforward in the snow, especially as several players live some distance from stations.
Jamie Guy, selected at full back, has to get down from Alnwick, while Teessiders Andrew Baggett and Tom Jeffrey plan to catch the train at Darlington, along with Hartlepool's Gavin Painter.
Baggett returns at fly half after a six-week absence with a leg infection and Painter has also recovered from injury to take his place on the wing.
Blaydon beat Ealing 35-34 at Crow Trees in November, but player-coach Micky Ward said: "We are 14 points behind them, and they have a much easier run-in than us. Even if we win down there they are not going to fold and lose another three games, much as we might like them to."
Guy, who has deputised at fly half for Baggett, is in the North Under 20s squad for a development weekend at Welbeck College in Leicestershire over Easter. The weekend will be followed by the selection of an England squad to play two matches in Georgia in May.
The North contingent also includes three Mowden Park forwards in locks Chris Campbell and Henry Forbes, plus Guy Van den Dries, who has also played in the second row but is at No 8 today.
Forbes is not fully fit, so Andy Wilson returns alongside Campbell and with Danny Dixon also injured Van Den Dries joins Rory Duff and Charlie Maddison in the back row, with Liam Riley on the bench.
First-choice centres Chris Peace and Cameron Mitchell return, along with winger Chris McTurk. Lewis Johnson is on the other wing and Henry Robinson reverts to full back.
Chairman of Rugby Mike Keeligan said: "Stourbridge claim to have studied several of our games and found our weaknesses. It's a big game and it will show us what we need to get promoted next season."
Tynedale will hope to consolidate their place in National One with a win at home to Richmond, while Westoe desperately need a home victory against Bromsgrove in Two North.
Middlesbrough are gambling on being able to win away to relegated Durham City in North One East without the services of skipper Richie Barker.
Iain Bradford returns at No 8 and influential scrum half Peter Wright is rested, being named on the bench with Connor Foley at scrum half.
Neil Rees-Davies is selected in the front row and vice-captain Rob Bellerby makes a welcome return at centre.
After fading in the last 15 minutes against D and N division one leaders Alnwick last week, Stockton will be hoping for an 80-minute performance when they visit struggling Ryton. It is hoped that Martin Dixon will have recovered from his hand injury to take his place at No 8.
*Former Newcastle prop David Wilson, who was on the bench for England throughout the Six Nations, has extended his contract with Bath.
"Bath has become home for me now and I love the club," he said.
"Everything a professional needs to excel is here - from coaching to facilities - and I feel very excited to be at a club that has so much support and ambition. I wouldn't be anywhere else."
*Josh Beaumont, son of Bill, will make his final appearance as captain of Durham University when they face Cardiff Metropolitan University in the final of the British University and College Sports Cup at Twickenham tomorrow.
Durham's only defeat against student opposition in three years came in last year's final against Hartpury College.