Roxy Fearon reckons the next three games will shape Derby’s season. They have won their last three in the Midlands Premier and have six more points than they did at this stage last season.
So they already have plenty to be happy about but Fearon, Derby’s director of rugby, believes there is a big test for the team before Christmas.
They face second-placed Newport (Salop) tomorrow at Haslams Lane (2.15pm) and sign off for the Christmas break with a home game against third-placed Peterborough Lions on December 16. And sandwiched between these two games is a trip to Nuneaton, who are three places behind them, on December 9.
“Newport are chasing a play-off spot because it looks like Birmingham & Solihull will pull clear to claim first place,” said Fearon.
“Newport definitely seem to fancy themselves for that play-off spot and I think they have spent some money to get where they are. So it will be interesting to see how we fare and I think the next three games will shape our season.
“The manner in which we are competing is certainly better than last season. There has been only one game so far where we have been beaten out of sight. Other games could have gone either way and, in the last three games, we have definitely been the better side.
“It has been really rewarding to see that change in the attitude of the players. They are putting into practice what we are doing in training.”
Jared Parkinson returns to the front row, with Adam Parkins out injured. And Luke Frixou will be in the back row after returning from international duty.
He has played for Cyprus in Europe Conference Division Two South, where they have enjoyed convincing wins against Austria (42-5) and Slovakia (38-6).
Number eight Luke Willmott will be looking to carry on from where he left off against Newbold on Avon last Saturday, when he scored four tries, and George Campbell continues on the wing after successfully stepping up from the seconds at the start of the current three-game winning streak. On the bench, McGrath Van Wyk returns after recovering from an ankle injury.
Newport were promoted from Midlands One West last season and are clearly aiming high, having won eight and lost three. But Fearon is still confident his side can make their mark at Haslams Lane tomorrow.
“Newport have had close games in which they have managed to get over the line,” he added.
“We shouldn’t really fear anyone and we will definitely give them a good game at our place. I am sure we can get a good result.”
Derby 1st XV v Newport (Salop) (h), meet 12.15pm, 2.15pm kick-off: Kent, Wilcox, Parkinson, Tebbs, C Barker, Frixou, Trembling, Willmott, Tizard, Castledine, G Campbell, Dawson, Marlow, Saffell, Martin. Replacements: Coombes, J Barker, Van Wyk.
Derby 2nd XV v Newport (Salop) (h), meet 12.30pm, 2.15pm kick-off: Moon, Bates, A Campbell, Tilford, Atherton, C Brown, Pearson, Lee, Maddocks, Taylorson, Milton, Culligan, Woods, Manning, A Brown. Replacements: Bell, Pittman, Slater, Jellyman, Vaughan.
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