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Barney old boy makes Mowden debut
LAST year's Barnard Castle School captain Guy Van Den Dries will make his debut at No 8 for Darlington Mowden Park in their opening National Two North match at Preston Grasshoppers today.
He is one of two newcomers in the side, along with winger Sean Brown, from Ryton, who is in the England Under 18s squad.
There have been no significant departures from the team which gained promotion last season, other than lock Neil Young returning to Redcar as player/coach. But Zylon McGaffin, Grant Connon, Cameron Mitchell and Chris McTurk are all unavailable today.
Martyn Lithgo and Tom Hodgson are at half back, with Chris Peace and Richie Young at centre and Max Connon at full back.
Another ex-Barnard Castle School boy, utility back Jack Neville, is on the bench.
Mowden are at home next week to Westoe and will be up agains their former Director of Rugby, Andy Howells, who has returned to the South Shields club following their slide towards the end of last season.
Among those recruited who have peviously come under Howells' wing is flanker Aaron Myers, who was with Wharfedale last season, as was full back Scott Jordan, another West Hartlepool product.
With their ground unavailable, Westoe's scheduled visitors, Leicester Lions, have agreed to switch the fixtures.
Blaydon start their National One programme at Macclesfield and include ex-Westoe centre Tommy Banks in place of Matt Clark, who has signed for Leeds.
Another newcomer is full back Nathan Bailey, from Gosforth, who is in the Newcastle Falcons Academy. Andy Davies gets the nod at scrum half and ex-Stockton winger Tom Jeffery is also selected after an impressive pre-season. The prolific Fraser Wilson is on the other wing.
Tynedale hand ex-Westoe back row man Ollie Stedman his debut at home to promoted Old Albanians. It is hoped he will compensate for the loss of Sam Shires to Ealing.
Lock Richard Boyle has also gone to work in London and joined Rosslyn Park, but another Westoe back row man has signed in Ben Frankland.
Skipper Jack Harrison is fit after missng most of last season.
After being two divisions apart last season, Middlesbrough and Darlington find themselves back together in North One East and Boro are hopeful of doing well under the new coaching team of Richard Horton and Martin Featherstone.
Horton starts on the bench at home to Pocklington with Tom Simon hooking, while two recruits from Northallerton, full back Rhys Kilbride and No 8 Richard Lonsdale, are in the side.
Another newcomer at blind side is Scot Robin Cessford, while centre Paul Norris is back after missing most of last season. Jack Bircham is at fly half, with Josh Evans and Tom Bivens on the wings.
Darlington have 11 players either injured or unavailable for the trip to Northern, but stalwarts Richard Snowball and Joe Oselton should help them compete in the front five. New player/coach Sean Richardson is among those on the casualty list.
In Durham and Northumberland One, Stockton go to Gosforth and include ex-Darlington captain Steve Taylor at lock , ex-Boro man Martin Dixon in the back row and former Acklam captain Andy Bailes at prop. Paul Lee will be at fly half in the absence of Jeremy Good.