Harrogate’s experienced aces tasked to battle Ampthill and District brawn

Harrogate Rugby will put their rotation policy to one side to hit league leaders Ampthill and District with a full-strength squad on Saturday.

Friday, 6th February 2015, 2:25 pm
Harrogate rugby's WIllem Enslin and Nathan Smith (Richard Bown)

Director of rugby Mike Aspinall has chopped and changed his starting line-up throughout the 2014/15 season in a bid to give younger players more experience of National Two Rugby.

The coach had planned to give several inexperienced squad players a chance to shine against Stockport last Saturday, but the match fell to the inclement weather in Greater Manchester.

However, no such gambles will be made this weekend when promotion contenders Ampthill arrive at Claro Road (2pm kick off). Aspinall faces a selection headache at flanker, though, after Nathan Smith suffered a dislocated ankle playing for Harrogate’s second team on Saturday.

Smith has been ruled out of the season and Noel Minikin is likely to replace him Lewis Minkin also faces a spell on the sidelines with a pulled hamstring.

The inclement weather over the past fortnight has meant Harrogate will head into the decisive fixture feeling fresh having not played a match since January 17.

Aspinall fears the lack of action could have knocked Harrogate off their stride, following seven straight wins.

He was also wary the weather could provide an advantage to Ampthill’s heavy forwards.

The visitors boast one of the meanest packs in the league and have won 17 of their 21 matches to date.

They have scored the most points in the league (728) and have the strongest defence.

The Bedfordshire side thrashed Harrogate 53-7 earlier in the season.

Aspinall said: “They’re an enormous side with a very big, experienced pack.

“It’s going to be a massive challenge for our most experience players let along the people that have only a few caps to their name.”

“The heavy pitches will play into their hands but I think we have progressed a lot as a team since we played them last. I don’t know whether they have done too or not. We have a bit of making up to do from that game, and I know the guys are highly motivated to show how far they have come.”