South Wales Scorpions v Gateshead Thunder
David James (back) is South Wales Scorpions’ only injury absentee as they prepare to host Gateshead Thunder in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship One clash.
Scorpions coach Dave Clark said: “We’ve still an opportunity to make the play-offs and we know we have to win the next few games.
“We picked up a bonus point in our last home game but we wanted, and should have had, more. It wasn’t good enough and we know we can do a lot better.
“Gateshead will be be full of enthusiasm and confidence. We’ve never lost to them, but games have been getting closer all the time.
“Gateshead will be going all out for victory and we’ve got to be good enough on the day to get all three points. I can’t underestimate the importance of this Sunday’s match.”
Thunder coach Kevin Neighbour could give a debut to Jared Stewart, who has had spells with Newcastle Falcons and Leeds Rhinos during the early part of his career.
Captain Jason Payne is also set to return to action after recovering from a recent ankle problem.
Rochdale Hornets v Oxford (3.00pm)
Rochdale Hornets coach Ian Talbot could give a debut to loan signing Ruairi McGoff, who has joined on a one-month deal from Barrow Raiders.
Talbot said: “He’s a hard worker with bags of experience at the top of this league, and will give us an extra option during the run in.”
Oxford coach Tony Benson faces a number of selection headaches as he tries to maintain his side’s position in the top four.
Johnny Leather (hamstring) and Valu Bentley (ankle) both face late fitness tests, with Benson assessing their chances of playing at about 40 per cent.
Dave Ellison (broken jaw) and Lucas Onyango (knee) are both out, while Andrew Hoggins is missing due to an international call-up from Germany.
However, Benson admits he has been delighted by the progress his side have made in their debut year.
Benson said: “We assess things by the number of players who’ve played confidently having come from the local scene, and those numbers are good.
“I really can’t separate them from the more established players now, and some of them are first on the team sheet. That’s a really good sign for next year and the year after.”
Benson is hoping to collect at least two wins from Oxford’s final four league fixtures, with his side due to face Hemel, North Wales and London Skolars after Sunday’s clash with Rochdale.
Gloucestershire All Golds v London Skolars (3.00pm)
Gloucestershire All Golds coach Brad Hepi is setting his sights on a third successive win after seeing off Oxford and South Wales in the last month.
And Gloucestershire’s chances look set to receive a major boost with the inclusion of on-loan winger Nev Morrison, who has joined on a short-term deal from Sheffield Eagles.
Victory for Hepi’s men could lift them off the foot of the Kingstone Press Championship One table, but London Skolars will be in confident mood despite last week’s Northern Rail Bowl final defeat.
Skolars coach Joe Mbu could hand a debut to high-profile signing Gareth Raynor.
Former international winger Raynor, 35, scored the final try in Great Britain’s famous 2006 win against Australia in Sydney.
Raynor said: “I’m excited to be putting my boots back on and the opportunity to come to London and help Skolars push for promotion is a challenge that appealed to me greatly.”
Raynor is likely to replace Ade Adebisi, who suffered an injury during last week’s loss against North Wales.
Andy McLean (quad) is also a major doubt, while Michael Worrincy will be assessed after suffering a dead leg against the Crusaders.
Oldham v North Wales Crusaders (3.00pm)
Oldham coach Scott Naylor has been given a treble boost ahead of Sunday’s top-of-the-table showdown with North Wales Crusaders.
Oldham currently lead Kingstone Press Championship One by two points, but have played two games more than second-placed Crusaders.
Victory on Sunday would give Oldham more breathing space at the top of the table, and their chances have been boosted by the news that Jason Boults, Liam Gilchrist and Matthew Haggerty are all fully fit.
Crusaders’ only absentee is Owain Brown (personal reasons) as coach Clive Griffiths urges his squad to enjoy the last few weeks of the season.
Griffiths said: “We’re in another massive game and the winner will be in the box seat. That’s why you play the game – to test yourself. We need to enjoy it.
“There shouldn’t be a hangover from last week. We’ve had a couple of days to reflect and it’s now business as usual.
“And we’ll certainly pay Oldham the respect they deserve. They’re top of the league and favourites to win it – they always have been.”