Tough test for Mowden's credentials

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

DARLINGTON Mowden Park's strength in depth will be tested when they host skipper Junior Fagalilo's former club, Leicester Lions, today.

They have made seven changes, mostly enforced, after their nine-game winning run was ended in last week's bruising battle away to National Two North leaders Stourbridge.

All but one of those coming in are regular squad members, some of whom are in need of a start after several weeks on the bench.

The exception is Jack Neville, who starred on the wing in the opening home match before going off to Cardiff University. He is available for the next few weeks and is given a chance in his primary position of scrum half following Zylon McGaffin's return to South Africa to renew his visa.

Two key men who were the victims of big hits last week, flanker Luke Wishnowsky and fly half Grant Connon, are rested, as is Guy Van Den Dries after playing twice last weekend.

They also have very capable replacements in Will McCauley, who has missed the last two games, Tom Hodgson and Danny Dixon.

Prop Ralph Appleby, lock Andy Wilson and full back Max Connon drop to the bench, allowing Ben Simpson, Henry Forbes and Richie Young to start, while Shaun McCartney replaces winger Lewis Johnson, who has a neck injury.

Westoe also hope to get back to winning ways at home to Luctonians, who lie eighth after a creditable 20-20 draw at home to Preston Grasshoppers last week.

Westoe won 14-0 at home to the Herefordshire club last season and skipper Gareth Nesbit said: "We will need everyone to be at their optimum levels if we are to get our fourth win.

"We are playing some young boys while there are teams in this league who can offer ridiculous sums of money to get big name players in. I feel you don't have to have that kind of philosophy to be a good team."

Blaydon will have to win at Cinderford for the first time if they are to consolidate third place in National One.

They left at 4pm yesterday for their only overnight stop of the season in the Forest of Dean. They travel to venues in and around London on early morning trains.

Player-coach Micky Ward sits out the match after the birth of his third child, so Robbie Morris starts in preference to James Hallam, who played for part of Newcastle Falcons' victory over Tonga on Tuesday.

Ben Morris returns to the back row as Gavin Jones is unavailable and winger Frazer Wilson is rested, allowing Tom Jeffery to return as Ward plans a tighter approach than in last week's high-scoring home win against Ealing.

Tynedale were ahead of Blaydon after four games but are now 20 points adrift after slipping to fourth from the bottom through a run of six defeats. They will be desperate to halt it at home to Fylde.

West Hartlepool entertain Rossendale, who are struggling to mount the same challenge in National Three North as last season, when they qualified for a promotion play-off.

West have Nathan Myers in the back row alongside the Boatman brothers and David Heckles is paired with Luke Watson at centre, with Colin Cheslin at full back.

Billingham have followed four successive wins with three losses and after last week's 31-5 home defeat by Sandal they will be anxious to get back on track at Waterloo.

Middlesbrough will expect to end a run of three defeats in North One East at home to Durham City, who have lost all nine since winning their opening game.

City conceded 90 points last week at Morley in a game postponed three weeks earlier because they couldn't raise a front row.

Boro welcome back three experienced men in player-coach Richard Horton, scrum half Peter Wright and centre Rob Bellerby, who will be partnered at centre by Michael Duffield, making his first start. Another player who has worked his way up through the teams, Gary Rock, is named at open side.

Darlington visit Cleckheaton with Richard Snowball and Tom Wilkinson back to bolster the pack, while Tony Taylor is on the wing after returning from London.

Stockton bring back some of their big guns for the visit of Ryton.

Scrum half Rob Green and second row Steve Taylor return after being out for two months with knee problems, but No 8 Matt Wootten is away, so Martin Howe steps into the breach.

n Newcastle Falcons prop Oliver Tomaszczyk and flanker Richard Mayhew have been picked to represent the RFU Championship side to play the Maori All Blacks at Doncaster today.

Hailing Tomaszczyk's call-up, Falcons boss Dean Richards said: "He is starting to get a reputation for being one of the best scrummagers in the Championship, if not the best.

"Not only that, his play in open field is improving dramatically - in terms of his character off the field everyone gets on with him, so it will be interesting to see how he gets on."

The Falcons' next match is away to Jersey next Saturday.

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