BURTON RFC are hoping the weather does not force the postponement of their attractive Midlands One (West) clash with Stoke for the time in a matter of weeks.
The Crofters are due to host the Potteries side at Peel Croft, kick-off 2.15pm, in a rearranged fixture that was called off in the run-up to Christmas because of waterlogged pitch.
Now it is snow and ice that could force the game to be put back again - just when the hosts have virtually a full-strength squad available.
Coach Steve Smith said: “The weather is going to play a massive part in the game against Stoke, which falls with us having what is pretty much a full-strength squad - long-term casualties apart.
“We just hope weather is not as bad as the forecasters are suggesting because we would very much like to play the game at the second time of asking.”
Stoke are currently sitting two places and nine points behind Burton in the league table.
They will be looking to get back on track after last week’s defeat at home by Hereford ended a four-game winning streak.
The earlier game between these two sides at Stoke back in September saw an injury-hit Burton team triumph by 22-19, despite a strong comeback by the home side in the last 20 minutes when injuries forced a Burton reshuffle.
But a courageous and valiant display, particularly in defence, by the Crofters saw them hang on to take the victory and a deserved four points.
Smith is hoping his side build on the form they showed in the first half of last week’s 45-15 defeat of Barkers Butts.
He said: “Last week’s game from the squad’s point of view was one which saw us play with great precision and intensity for the first 40 minutes, with some of the best rugby of the season being played.
“However, the second half showed that if we don’t play together as a unit that we become an average side and drop our standards.
“As the squad gets more experienced I am sure that it will develop the ability to really kill off teams.”
On the player front, Smith said: “The front row will be made up of Charl Neethling, Nathan Taylor and Tom Murphy in an area we feel we must dominate in order to provide the much needed ammunition to the backs.
“Kieran Hawketts will move back into the colts, where I am sure he will lead by example and drive up the standards with the club’s younger lads.
“Ali Wheedon, who has also played off the bench from the colts in the past two weeks will also take this additional experience back into that squad.
“These guys have acquitted themselves brilliantly over the past few weeks and I am sure we will see much more of these two gracing Peel Croft in the future.
“The rest of the pack will remain largely unchanged, apart from Jason Knight being selected ahead of Joe Briggs who unfortunately has been unable to train throughout the week.
“We also feel that Knight will add a major physical presence initially, with Briggs able to enter the game and bring additional pace as the Stoke pack tires.
“The back line welcomes back Lawrence Betty to the inside centre role following two weeks on the bench and the fit again John Philliskirk onto the bench, who has been missing for practically 12 months through injury and time out to develop his triathlon skills.
“Philliskirk will relish this challenge and will certainly add his pace and power to the our attack. Dave Archer reverts to wing in place of Tom Cooper who moves to the bench.
“Stoke are certainly going to be a test for us, but we hope with the front row we have available that we will be able to be dominant in the scrum and challenge their lineout and put them under pressure in all tight aspects of the game.
“Betty coming back into the starting line-up will add a large physical presence in the midfield and the combination of Archer, Danny and Sam Smith will be a back three to match any in this league, with Philliskirk just itching to join them.”
Other games this week involve the A XV playing away to Derby, while the Vets - bolstered by some B team - travel to play Melbourne.