12:00am Saturday 4th January 2014
By Tim Wellock
BLAYDON again have England Under 20 squad man Zach Kibirige available to play at full back in today's tough National One match at Esher.
With his international commitments coming up, they are grateful to have regular full back Nathan Bailey back in training after injury, along with centre Tom Grimes and highly-rated young winger Frazer Wilson. He hasn't played since he was injured when playing for Durham 19 months ago.
Blaydon continue to rotate their scrum halves with Jonny Burn starting and Andy Davies on a strong bench, which also features prop James Hallam and flanker Harry Bate, back after injury.
Coach Micky Ward returns after sitting out the last two games, but hooker Matt Hall is rested, allowing Fran Entressengle to return.
Tynedale, ten points adrift of safety next to the bottom, kick off at 2pm at home to mid-table Old Albanians.
The four sides in the promotion frame in National Two North are all away from home, with Darlington Mowden Park visiting Bromsgrove, who are third from the bottom. The others will also expect to win, although Stourbridge might be tested at Birmingham and Solihull.
After 50-point home wins in their last two games, Mowden's only change sees Gavin Painter return at fly half, with Tom Hodgson dropping to the bench.
Barnard Castle School product Anthony Harrison continues at open side after his promising debut against Hull and there will be stiff competition for the No 7 shirt once Jack Alcock and Liam Riley are fit again. Will Macauley is also in contention and is on the bench today, but there's no room for Ollie Hodgson.
A strong Mowden second team will face Blaydon today on one of the new pitches at The Northern Echo Arena.
Prop Josh Bayford has been suspended for three weeks after being sent off for striking an opponent two minutes after going on from the bench against Hull. At the same RFU disciplinary hearing Hull Ionians flanker Henry Forbes, a former Mowden player, was suspended for two weeks after he admitted striking an opponent with his head in the National One match against Doncaster.
Two Boxing Day derbies which have survived the festive break are at Hartlepool, where West won 15-0 at Rovers, and on North Tyneside, where Percy Park beat Rockcliff 67-0.
The Tynemouth club rested most of their first XV and will be anxious to complete a double over visitors Billingham today. Since winning 32-22 on Teesside in September, Percy Park have slipped to fourth from the bottom of National Three North, two places below Billingham.
West Hartlepool will have veteran Davy Tighe at fly half for the visit of Middlesbrough in North One East after occupying that spot when he went on from the bench in the Boxing Day derby.
Colin Cheslin has a back problem, so regular No 10 Stu Waites switches to full back as West seek to complete a double, having won comfortably at Acklam Park in September.
While Boro will spend the second half of the season battling against relegation, West are one of three teams on 46 points vying for the promotion play-off place.
Sam Miller is at No 8 for West and in the backs Liam Bailey partners Andrew Cheslin at centre, with Luke Mallinson on the wing.
Boro have Jack Bircham at full back, with Adam Nolson switching to the wing and Simon Moore partnering skipper Rob Bellerby at centre. Tom Fox returns to the back row.
Darlington's next two games will have a strong bearing on their promotion hopes in Durham and Northumberland One. Lying second, three points behind Horden, they visit fourth-placed Guisborough today and entertain the leaders next week.
They had hoped ex-skipper Richard Snowball might be available for the second half of the season, but he has not appeared so Joe Oselton continues in the second row.
Rob Goddard reverts to hooker after a stint in the back row, where Dom McAlorum is fit to resume. Nick Baldwin and Andy Pugh will be out for several more weeks through injury, and with Alex Lineton unavailable Adam Gardner and Sam Hardy are paired at centre with Andy Robinson at full back.
Stockton host Bishop Auckland in a league game for the first time hoping to avenge a 51-15 away defeat suffered when their injury crisis was at its height.
After a bright start, Bishops have faltered and are one place below their hosts in 12th. Stockton were encouraged by pushing Middlesbrough all the way in last Saturday's Alan Todd Memorial game before losing 29-20. Coach Martin Howe is in the back row today.
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