Rugby club strength to be tested by departures

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OAKHAM Rugby Club’s strength in depth will be tested with a series of players expected to leave in the new year.

The Oaks have made an excellent start to the season since last summer’s promotion but coach Mark Powell warned key players will be missing for much of the remainder of the season.

“From where we stand right now, I am very encouraged,” said Powell, who took over the coaching role at Oakham two and a half years ago.

“If we are there at the end of the season I will be delighted. But we are set to lose a lot of players in the new year.”

Scrum half Charlie Morgan and second row forward George Reid are both set to travel to Australia and will be tough to replace.

Powell said: “George has been a stalwart in the side since coming in and to replace him will be difficult. We do not have anyone else with quite the same build.”

Another player who will be absent at some point in 2011 is likely to be winger Adam Stimson.

“Adam has done very well but is carrying an injury and eventually he will have to have that treated,” said Powell, adding: “But their departures will give others like Oli Easson the opportunity to step up.”

And that will be key to maintaining the club’s momentum - holding onto a core of players including second team players who are capable of moving up into the first XV.

Powell said: “We are always going to be a transient team because of the nature of the town with people coming and going, especially the younger generation.”

He added that several players who starred in the promoted side are already rising to the challenge of playing at a higher level.

“Tom Burton has developed very, very well and Ben Harries has stepped up a level. He has the ability and this league is drawing that out of of him,” he said.

“Will Armstrong has found his natural position at full back and Adam Price has made prop his own position.

“But it’s the sum total that counts, not individuals, and the team has the depth.”

Now his side faces a busy few months after a series of postponed fixtures late in the year.

“The big issue will be congestion,” said Powell. “There will be no breaks and the stronger squads will benefit, but if you are fit and strong you should cope.”

n Oakham play Ashby at home on January 8. Kick off will be at 2.15pm.