West Hartlepool start North One East rugby programme at Northern

CAPTAIN MARVEL: Dan Boatman in action for West V Horden
CAPTAIN MARVEL: Dan Boatman in action for West V Horden

DIRECTOR of rugby Kevan Oliphant today warned West Hartlepool that they cannot rest on their laurels after a stunning pre-season.

West start what they hope will be a promotion campaign tomorrow when they visit Northern in their North One East opener (kick-off 3pm).

The Brinkburn side have put together great back-to-back wins over Blaydon in the Durham Senior Cup and Horden in the Bob Bateman Memorial Game.

Optimism is high in the side ahead of the trip to Newcastle though Oliphant has sounded a note of caution.

“We know little about Northern or what sort of game we can expect tomorrow,” said Oliphant.

“All I know is a couple of their pre-season results – they beat Ponteland 37-7 in the Northumberland Cup and lost 7-5 at Carlisle in a friendly.

“It’s hard to judge what tomorrow will be like.

“But Northern were a mid-table team in North One East last season so how tomorrow goes may be a gauge for where we are at the moment.

“Pre-season has gone well for us and the players are as fit as fiddles – they have really put the graft in.

“Last night we had 42 out training which is excellent for any club.

“We are confident after how pre-season has gone but we are cautious with it.

“We cannot afford to be complacent – just because we won at Blaydon, we can’t just turn up tomorrow and expect to win.

“We’ve still got to put the work in and earn the right to win.”

It is hard to imagine West’s squad being anything but well prepared and focused tomorrow with Oliphant and coaches Iain Dixon and Peter Robinson at the helm.

West send a strong side out at McCracken Park despite the raft of injuries and knocks they suffered in the 43-14 win over Horden last Saturday.

Winger Tom Armstrong (collarbone), lock Owen Bennett (knee) and prop Ian Pinchen (head) are out but Scott Butcher has recovered to start on the wing.

The loss of Bennett will be keenly felt – the former Horden skipper had impressed in both training and games since his move from Welfare Park in the summer.

“Owen is going to be out for weeks rather than months,” reported Oliphant.

“He’s been a good influence on our pack and he’ll be back quite soon.

“We are lucky that we have loads of back rows playing well at the moment so we have switched things around a bit tomorrow and we’ve moved Dan Boatman to lock with Chris Atkins coming in at flanker.

“We have a very mobile pack who have also been excellent in the set-piece too thanks to the work they have put in over the summer.”