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Wharfedale home in on ending poor run as experienced players return to team
Buy this photo » Skipper Chis Steel is fit to return as the pack is bolstered
Wharfedale’s injury crisis appears to be over as they bid to bring an end to their dismal run of four successive home defeats against Richmond at The Avenue on Saturday.
The two-week break from SSE National League One action has certainly helped.
Captain Chris Steel, Ian Larkin, and Richard Rhodes are all fit to bolster the pack, while Christian Georgiou, Tom Davidson, Josh Prell and Scott Jordan return to the backs.
Front-rowers Adam Howard and Dan Stockdale have recovered from injury and illness to take their places on the replacements’ bench.
Wharfedale’s only injury concern centres on the versatile Phil Woodhead, who has been provisionally named as a replacement.
The presence of prop Steel and Rhodes should improve the performance at the scrum and line-out.
The Wharfedale pack has struggled in recent outings, and the absence of second row Rhodes has seen the club having to use back-row forwards as makeshift replacements for him.
Coach Jon Feeley saw Larkin, Georgiou, Howard and Prell have run outs for the Foresters last weekend and is relieved to be able to field a side that is almost back to full strength.
“In recent weeks it seems I have been talking to the medical team endlessly. Thankfully the break from league action has helped to reduce the injury list,” said Feeley.
The coach is aware that his team face a tough test. While Wharfedale’s form has tailed off, Richmond have won six of their last nine matches - a sequence which includes a victory at Blaydon.
Last Saturday, they lost very narrowly at high-flying Coventry, despite outscoring their hosts by three tries to one.
Wharfedale won 18-13 at Richmond in November and would love to repeat that result to end the dismal run that has taken some of the shone away from their pre-Christmas performances.
Feeley said: “I am telling the players that we are starting the season again.
“We must forget what has gone before but learn the lessons from those matches.”
He added: “In recent matches we have had an array of experienced players sat in the stand while we have been forced to field young, inexperienced and lightweight teams.
“In the long term, the experience gained by the younger players will put them and the club in good stead, but it has been a tough time.
“The heavy ground hasn’t helped either and our opponents have adapted their tactics to counter our fast-running style.
“Hopefully, now that we have a much more experienced pack available, we can establish the platform which will enable us to play the type of rugby that has served us so well.”
Car parking for the match, which kicks off at 3pm, could be problematic, as the local school is unavailable and whether the adjacent field can be used will depend on conditions.
Wharfedale (home to Richmond): Christian Georgiou; Scott Jordan, Joe Donkin, Tom Davidson, Josh Prell; Tom Barrett, Matt Dudman; Chris Steel (c), Ian Larkin, Jake Armstrong, Richard Brown, Richard Rhodes, Jack Barnard, Aaron Myers, Rob Baldwin. Replacements: Adam Howard, Dan Stockdale, Josh Burridge, Alex Powell, Nick Taylor, Philip Woodhead.