North Walsham head to Colchester for top of table clash in London 1N
- Credit: Archant
After their stunning start of seven wins and seven bonus points North Walsham face their toughest test yet on Saturday when they travel to second-placed Colchester.
They are a side they have beaten just once in 10 outings, back in the 2013-14 season. The Essex outfit were contenders for London One North honours last term, but having finished second to Rochford Hundred they fell short in the play-off game at Brighton Blues.
They made a slow start this time around, beating Shelford by a single point in their opener followed by a three point win over Sudbury, but in the last couple of games have run in big scores against early strugglers Ruislip and Woodford.
Renowned for having a powerful pack that provides good ball for their backs, they will bring out the best of the Vikings, whose success so far has been based on sound preparation, confidence and playing to a plan.
Head of rugby Johnny Marsters will hopefully have few changes to make although there will be returnees who missed last week's win over Eton Manor.
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Props George Youngs and Dane Canning, who missed out due to family commitments and injury respectively, are up for selection as is flanker Ed Sampson, who had a late work call-up. No doubt Marsters will give much thought as to how to solve the front row problem but it seems likely Sampson will have to settle for a spot on the bench, with last week's man of the match Ethan Sikorski retaining the No 6 shirt.
One player who will be desperately unhappy to miss out is back rower Will Hodgson, who limped off in the away game last season with cruciate ligament damage and who is still a few weeks short of a return.
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North Walsham (from): F Scott, T Knight, T Browes, G Youngs, D Canning, N Rokodinono, R Oakes, D Bird, W Swart, D Dejongh, E Sikorski, E Sampson, J Duffield, M Hodgson, J Riley, C Anthony, J Milligan, D Smith, J Knight, J Younie, J Mustard.
After last week's bruising battle at Diss, which ended in a hard-fought 17-17 draw, Norwich play host to second place Southwold, with the winner guaranteed to be top at the end of the day.
Norwich had six regulars unavailable or injured at Diss and picked up more injuries, with Jon Raven (groin), Ruairidh Bottomley (hamstring), Viv Valmiki (ankle) and Stu Seppings (shoulder) all struggling, so selection will be delayed until after training.
"Fortunately some of the players who were unavailable last week have returned, so we still have a strong squad to select from," said head of rugby David Everitt. "Southwold sit two points behind us, having had a good start to their campaign, and beat us at home last season. We can look forward to another difficult local derby. They are a good scrummaging side, will be full of confidence and will test us to the full.
"If we can dominate the contact area and defend as resolutely as we did against Diss we should be able to give a performance that will be good enough to get us a result. As with any local derby, you should never underestimate the opposition, with bragging rights at stake."
Holt have what looks like an ideal opportunity to get their season up and running when they welcome Epping Upper Clapton to Bridge Road.
With a number of key players on the sidelines Holt have struggled since gaining promotion, picking up just four points from their opening five fixtures.
They are still looking for a first win but should fancy their chances of getting it when they host a side who have lost all of their games so far while their hosts at least have a draw to their name.
Wymondham will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing 47-19 defeat at Southwold when they welcome Ipswich to Barnard Fields while Diss visit Romford and Gidea Park.
With leaders Cantabrigian having a weekend off top spot is up for grabs tomorrow, with second placed Ely at Thetford and third placed West Norfolk visiting Fakenham.
There is also an important game at the foot of the table as Crusaders and Beccles - who have just one win between them so far - meet at Little Melton.
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North Walsham Raiders, who were well off the pace last week when losing 21-0 to Diss Saracens, will be looking to make amends when they travel the short distance to High Kelling to play local rivals Holt II.
One of the main problems thus far has been the number of changes each week and the feeling in the coaching staff is that given some stability the side has great potential.
Elsewhere Norwich Union entertain Diss in a top of the table battle while Watton host Norwich Medics and Wymondham II host Norwich II.