12:00am Saturday 22nd February 2014
By Tim Wellock
BLAYDON will be without their three England Counties XV men when they play their rearranged National One match at Cinderford today.
Prop Robbie Kalbraier and lock Chris Wearmouth started last night's match against Ireland Clubs, while Gavin Jones was on the bench.
With Jason Smithson and Simon Barber injured, and Nathan Bailey and Andy Davies unavailable, Blaydon's resources are stretched for a game their hosts will be desperate to win.
One bright spot is that highly-rated young winger Frazer Wilson is fit after being out since he suffered a serious knee injury playing for Durham County 21 months ago.
After three second team games, coach Micky Ward would prefer to bring him back on a less muddy surface than is likely to be encountered today, so Wilson is named on the bench with Sean Brown and Tom Jeffery on the wings.
Full back Phil Stewart and No 8 Matt Smith, who both have very limited first team experience, are selected, and outstanding flanker Ben Morris makes what is expected to be his last appearance after signing for Rotherham.
Because of the conditions, Ward had included two props on the bench in Trevor Davison and Robbie Morris, and the other prop, James Hallam, will switch to the back row if necessary.
Sean English takes Wearmouth's place in the second row and Harry Bate starts in place of Jones in the back row.
As Cinderford are next to the bottom a Blaydon win would do Tynedale a favour as they seek to climb out of the bottom three.
After losing in the last minute at home to leaders Doncaster last week, Tynedale will hope their new-found scrummaging and mauling power will carry them to victory away to Loughborough.
After starting the season with a comfortable win at Blaydon, the Students won five of their first six. But their only victories in the last nine have been at home to Henley and Worthing, the two clubs Tynedale hope to overhaul.
In the day's only match of significance in National Two North, Mowden Park will hope Harrogate do them a favour by winning at home to Macclesfield.
It could be a tough two weeks for the Cheshire club, who are at home to leaders Stourbridge next week.
In National Three North Billingham visit Waterloo for their rearranged game, knowing they will be too close to the relegation places for comfort if they lose. Also, if Percy Park lose at Huddersfield they could slip below Waterloo into third bottom spot.
On what should have been a blank date, West Hartlepool have several players unavailable as they make a second attempt to play their North One East match at Alnwick.
Alex Barker comes into the back row, Andy Robson partners Michael Hogan at lock, and Kyle Jamieson is on the wing.
Middlesbrough are without a game and will hope to be a full strength for next week's crucial trip to bottom club Sheffield, who entertain the other relegation candidates, Morpeth, today.
Durham Under 20s will play their County Shield semi-final against Middlesex at Billingham tomorrow (2.15). The visitors won 46-38 away to Cambridge University in their quarter-final, while Durham 19-17 against Warwickshire with a side which included four Billingham players - prop Jack Angus, open side Anthony Jackson, centre Matthew Kirby and wing Eldon Myers. There were two more on the bench in Cameron Thornton and Luke Armstrong.
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