Rugby Union: Aspinall prepares Harrogate squad gamble ahead of Stockport test

Harrogate v Stockport earlier this season (Richard Bown)
Harrogate v Stockport earlier this season (Richard Bown)

Harrogate rugby club will make a sea of changes for their clash against bottom of the league Stockport this weekend.

Stockport have won just one match in National Two North this season, and were comfortably beaten 59-14 by Harrogate at Claro Road in October.

With Harrogate’s second string, the Georgians, facing a tough test against league leaders Wharfedale 2 in the Yorkshire Merit Premiership, experienced players will be spread across the club for the weekend’s fixtures.

However, director of rugby Mike Aspinall denied Gate were taking whipping boys Stockport lightly, insisting it was the perfect opportunity to introduce players into the first team.

The coach has chosen to rotate players throughout the season, and his men have responded with seven straight victories.

“If we’re not going to rotate against Stockport away, weare not going to rotate at all,” Aspinall said.

“It’s one of those weekends where If it comes off, it’s nice and I can sit there and say, as a club we just got better. If it doesn’t, I will look like an idiot and everyone will be saying you should have played your strongest team.”

First team debuts will be given to regular second-team players Matt Broughan (second row) and Harry Barnard (wing) while Joe Watson will make a second start at number six.

Aspinall also plans to bring Noel Minikin back into the first team starting line-up at flanker while Phil Wickham is set to replace Danny Matthews at scrum-half.

Prop Nino Cutino will make his long-awaited return following a peck injury sustained before in October.

“We are going to be putting out two really strong sides, ultimately with the aim to improve the club,” Aspinall added.

“There is a good handful of guys that need an opportunity in the starting shirt. We have to back them to take it on. That’s what is making this club strong.

“There’s a real trust from the management that these guys will take on the responsibility and get a result.

“Stockport aren’t an awful side but they are obviously bottom of the pule. We have to be a little wary of how we approach it but at the same time try to give people opportunity.”
All action at Claro Road was postponed over the weekend due to the inclement weather.

Harrogate’s match against Broadstreet has been rescheduled for February 28 – the final home match of the season with a 2.00pm kick-off.

Gate were given a boost in their promotion aspirations as Ampthill and District lost to title rivals Hull Ionians.

Ampthill will arrive at Claro Road on February 7, and the grudge match is at the forefront of Aspinall’s plans for the coach journey to Stockport.

Chester closed the gap on third place to one point after hammering Stockport 41-5 on Saturday, however Caldy and Sedgeley Park suffered defeats beneath them.

“It keeps it interesting and that’s all we could have asked,” added Aspinall.

“We can only look after our won results, so what will be will be. Whether Ampthill will steer off course and allow us a sniff, that’s their business.”