Castleford prop Fleming in much-changed Knights line-up

York Press: Castleford's Dan Fleming Castleford's Dan Fleming

GARY THORNTON is to ring the changes tomorrow as York City Knights aim to get quickly back on track against Oxford - including bringing in a notable newcomer from Castleford.

Aside from Jason Golden and long-term absentee Kriss Brining, Thornton will now be without Iain Morrison and Austin Bell due to injury, while fellow front-rower Jake Joynt is also a big doubt. They are sizeable blows just as the club hope their first defeat of term - at Championship outfit Swinton in the Challenge Cup - doesn't derail their Championship One campaign.

However, partner club Cas have made Dan Fleming available on dual-registration and the 21-year-old, who has played four Super League games this season for Daryl Powell's high-fliers, is ready to fill the breach - much to Thornton's delight.

Elsewhere, Josh Nathaniel comes in for his York debut at centre in place of James Morland, dual-reg full-back Ben Reynolds replaces the rested James Haynes, Luke Hardcastle gets another first-team chance, with winger George Elliott left out, and utility forward Jack Iley makes his 2014 bow.

Ben Crane and Ryan Backhouse are also on stand-by, drafted into the party after impressing in the under-20s reserves' latest win on Thursday night.

Head coach Thornton suggested last week that rotations were likely for the visit of the Cavaliers, especially on the back of a tough cup tie and with a trip to Gateshead following in five days. But he admits that, with the new injuries, his squad is being stretched.

"The plan is to use rotation for the first ten games or so and make sure we're still fresh for later in the season and the play-offs," he said.

"But we also have a few bumps. It's going to test us and stretch us, especially in the forwards."

Fleming was on dual-reg at Batley last season but also played 11 times for Cas's first team and impressed enough to win a place in Wales' World Cup squad. He also began this season in their Super League line-up.

Thornton said: "I've said all along we'd use Cas players above our own players only if we have to, and this is the ideal scenario to bring Dan in because we have injuries in the front row.

"He's a quality Super League player and a Wales international so obviously he's an excellent replacement.

"I know Dan - I coached him for two years in Castleford's academy - and I've spoken to him about dual-reg. I'm sure he will come with the right attitude, just like Ben Reynolds and Jake Webster have done."

Morrison followed Golden out of the Swinton game due to injury, and since then Bell and Joynt have likewise suffered knee trouble in training.

Thornton stressed he had full confidence in his players coming in.

"I don't consider them to be fringe players. I view them all as first-team squad players," he explained.

"Squads win leagues - not teams - and they're all in the squad because they're all very capable.

"There are times, with rotation or like with these injuries, when you rely on your squad, and I'm confident they're more than good enough to come in.

"Ben Crane, for example, played well against Whitehaven and Gloucestershire, and I know Ryan Backhouse's ability. These guys are chomping at the bit to get their opportunity.

"Jack Iley was very unfortunate in that he got injured in the pre-season so he missed a chunk or January and February, but he's got games under his belt in the U20s, he's performed well and he deserves his chance. With Jase Golden's injury, it's a perfect opportunity to bring him in."

Knights (probable): Reynolds, L Hardcastle, Ford, Nathaniel, B Dent, B Hardcastle, Presley, Aldous, Lee, Freer, Mallinder, E Smith, Paterson. Subs: from P Smith, Joynt, Fleming, Iley, Crane, Backhouse.

Oxford from: Baird, Benson, Blaney, Blewitt, Brooker, Crabtree, Connick, Clarke, Davies, Ellison, Evans, Hadden, Hoggins, Lynch, J Morris, S Morris, Mulkeen, Newton, O'Keeffe, Parker, Rice, Roden, Rowland, Sharratt, Slade-Jones, Thompson, Winfield, Wright.

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