Harrogate RUFC injury crisis spiraling out of control ahead of visit of Rotherham Titans
Harrogate RUFC director of rugby Dave Doherty says that he has “never seen anything like” the injury crisis that is currently crippling the club.
The struggling Aces host title-chasing Rotherham Titans at Rudding Lane this afternoon, but will do so minus a host of 1st XV regulars and with a back-line boasting very little experience of senior rugby, nevermind National Two North standard opposition.
Already missing a whole host of first-team players, 'Gate lost four men to injury at Huddersfield the weekend before last, leaving them further depleted for last Saturday's showdown with Sheffield Tigers.
Leading 7-0 at the time, they then suffered another blow when fly-half and player-coach Sam Fox limped off with a groin strain, a development which was to prove somewhat significant.
‘Gate went on to lose the match 27-7, leaving Doherty exasperated and with even more selection issues to contend with in the lead up to Christmas.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.
“I’ve been involved in professional sport since I was 15, so that’s more than 20 years, and I never known a situation like what we are contending with this season.
“We’ve been struggling with injuries all year, but it’s actually getting worse rather than better. Last week we had 23 players injured or unavailable and when I counted up, 15 of that number would have been in my first-choice matchday squad of 20 for the fixture against Sheffield Tigers on Saturday.
“Nobody could have foreseen this situation, I certainly didn’t, so with hindsight you look at it and think ‘I didn’t recruit enough strength-in-depth’. So, all the responsibility falls on my shoulders as our recruitment in the summer was down to me.
“The positive is that a lot of our young boys have had great exposure to National Two rugby, but we would dearly love to be able to get some of our experienced first-team players back out on the field sooner rather than later.”
On losing Fox during last Saturday’s showdown with the Tigers, he added: “It was a massive blow. Sam is our organiser, our best communicator and it was a struggle without him.
“Phil Wickham moved to fly-half, but it’s not an easy thing to do when he’s played all his rugby at scrum-half.
"We just don't have the playing budget or the depth in our squad to be able to replace someone of Foxy's quality with a like-for-like option - or to cope with so many injuries all at once."
With Fox, captain and scrum-half Danny Matthews, centre Marcus Mercer, utility man Luke Edwards, full-back Sam Parry and winger Matt Landsall all absent for the visit of high-flying Rotherham, Harrogate's back-line will have an extremely unfamiliar look about it this weekend.
As far as backs go, winger Harry Barnard is the only experienced 1st XV regular available to Doherty, though they do at least have young scrum-half Kit Keith returning at number nine. Wickham will once again be forced to fill in as an auxiliary fly-half.
"It's going to be a challenge with the inexperience in that back-line, but we do believe in these boys," the 'Gate chief continued.
"We were in a similar situation against Sheffield last time out after Sam went off, but they never took a backwards step, which is really encouraging.
"Again it is going to be more exposure to this level and experience that will benefit these boys in the long run.
"Rotherham are an extremely powerful outfit, but we know that our pack will look after the guys behind them."
There is some better news in the forwards, with flanker Guy Coser and number eight Declan Thompson deemed fit enough to be named among Harrogate's replacements.
Meanwhile, influential prop Will Dennis continues to work his way back to full fitness and again takes his place on the bench.
Kick-off at Rudding Lane on Saturday is at 2pm.