Serious injury to Will Hodgson is a big blow for North Walsham
- Credit: Archant
A busy Saturday of rugby union action sees North Walsham and Diss hit the road for testing fixtures while Norwich will be aiming to make it five wins on the trot in London 2NE at Beeston Hyrne. CHRIS WISE looks ahead to the games.
North Walsham will be attempting to put the disappointment of their defeat at fellow high-flyers Colchester behind them on Saturday when they travel to Old Priorians in London One North.
The Vikings went down 28-10 to the side immediately above them in the table after suffering a couple of injuries that badly affected their shape before the first quarter was up.
They continued to play with great heart and passion after that, with Johnny Marsters justifiably proud of their efforts, and the coach will be hoping for more of the same at Ealing against an Old Priorians side comfortably placed in mid-table.
Walsham, now seven points behind Colchester in third, will have to find replacements for Will Hodgson, who picked up what looks like a long-term knee injury, and scrum-half Jake Duffield, who suffered concussion and will take the recommended period out.
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The absence of Hodgson, who could be missing well into next season, could be solved by moving Roydon Miller to eight and bringing Ed Sampson in. Masters also has the option of putting the versatile Will Swart on the flank.
He might also be considering resting Chris Godwin after a run of hard games and could be looking to give a run from the bench for one of the promising youngsters. Duffield's shirt could stay with Mike Braans, who though not a natural No 9 has a good rugby brain and has covered the position previously. Both centres, James Knight and Joe Milligan, and wing Jim Riley were struggling after the Colchester game and the latter two could be rested but Knight is confident he will be okay. If so he could be part of a new pairing with new signing Andre Dunn.
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Diss are also away, travelling to Borehamwood to take on fourth placed Old Haberdashers. Diss are 10 points adrift at the foot of the table after their 60-5 home defeat at the hands of leaders Rochford Hundred, but showed enough in that testing fixture to suggest better times might be just around the corner.
After a week off, Norwich resume their campaign with a home game against Cantabrigian in what will be Jonty Newton's final game for the club.
Newton is returning home to Devon next week earlier than expected after working in the area. He will be missed by the team, having been a quality addition to the squad.
Cantabrigian started poorly but their results of late have been significantly better, with the return of several players from injury. Norwich will be expecting a very different game to their previous meeting, a 21-5 win in Cambridge in October, and with a four-run winning streak of their own a close match is in prospect.
Mike Lawton is unavailable but apart from the injured Robbie Bridgstock, the coaches can select from a full squad so there will some decisions to be made.
Laurence Austin made an impressive return from lengthy injury at eight in Norwich's previous game at Stowmarket where Dave Micklethwaite had to move out from the back row to cover 12. He will return to the back row tomorrow, with Newton slotting in. Chris Parrott will move to 15 in place of Lawton, giving a start to Rud Gant on the left wing.
Southwold hit the road to take on second placed Romford and Gidea Park. The Suffolk side currently lie a respectable seventh in the table in their first season at this level having won six and drawn eight so far.
With leaders Holt having a rest day on Saturday Wymondham have the chance to take over at the top when they visit second from bottom Thurston.
Ollie Coleman returns to the front row, with Ollie Charlish reverting to the backrow. Darren Wilson comes into the second row to partner Josh Wright, with Simon Darby moving into the back row due to David Blake being unavailable.
The back division remains unchanged from the win over Wisbech last time out but Tom Midgely returns to the squad after some strong performances in the seconds. Lee Bartlet also makes a welcome return after several months out with injury.
Third placed Ely could also move above Holt with a win at Wisbech while in other games Thetford host Fakenham and West Norfolk entertain Ipswich YM.
The season resumes after the regional split on February 9, with Eastern Counties One North clubs taking on similarly placed teams in the West and South sections. In the top flight Beccles host Colchester III in the first game while Norwich Union entertain Cottenham.