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Knights' Rhys Clarke could be rested following Northern Rail efforts
PLAYER-BOSS Chris Thorman is considering leaving Rhys Clarke out of Friday’s group decider at Sheffield – not as punishment but as acknowledgement of his efforts so far.
The Geordie back-rower is one of only six players to have featured in all three Northern Rail Cup games to date and has played more minutes than any other packman, not only in his usual slot but also when helping out at dummy-half.
It has been a big effort over an eight-day spell by a player who is still only 21, not aided by a dead leg picked up in Sunday’s win over his former club Gateshead.
And rather than ask for more at the Don Valley Stadium – in a fourth game in only 13 days – Thorman is wondering whether to give him a rest ahead of the Co-operative Championship kick-off the following weekend.
“He’s played big minutes in all three games so he probably needs a bit of a breather,” said the player-coach, who was to give Clarke a night off from training this week.
“He’s done really well. His performances have been very good. Emotionally it was a big one for him on Sunday as well, playing against his brother (Ryan) and against his home-town team.
“It’s important we acknowledge that and acknowledge his efforts, and give him an opportunity to recuperate.”
Thorman is set to bring his big-guns back for Friday night’s final Northern Rail Cup group match, when a bonus point would guarantee a place in the top four and progression to the quarter-finals. Whoever wins will top pool ‘B’ as the only team in the group with a 100 per cent record.
Front-line players Adam Sullivan, James Houston, in-form Jack Aldous, skipper James Ford, Matt Garside, young-gun Ed Smith and Thorman himself all sat out Sunday’s narrow victory, while first-choice hooker Jack Lee was only a second-half substitute.
Ben Hellewell and James Haynes, vying for the full-back spot with current incumbent Tom Bush, could also be back from injury.
Additionally, dual-registered second-row Chris Green, who made a surprise – and match-winning — debut on Sunday after a late call-up is expected to be in contention again, possibly to take Clarke’s berth, assuming he is not needed by parent club Hull.
Thorman was delighted with the strapping six-footer’s display off the bench, which came before he had even trained with his new team-mates. It was capped by two tries which turned a potential defeat into victory.
Thorman said: “I thought our performance would have been a bit better than it was and I probably didn’t want to play him as much as I did, but he came up with some big plays for us.
“Going off his performance, he’s in contention (for Friday). He’s a big, big lad and he’s a good athlete. He offered us something a bit different with his size, and he’s very fit and has got an off-load too. He’s another really good option.”
He added: “We left a lot of good players out on Sunday, almost an entire starting pack, so we’ve got some options for Sheffield.”
Meanwhile, fixtures will soon be ratified for the forthcoming Championship reserves season, and it is almost certain that the Knights will begin with a home game against Halifax on Thursday, March 8, kick off 8pm.
There will be 16 games in total. The six competing teams will play each other three times and one club four times. There are also likely to be play-offs for the top three at the end of term.
Reserves sides at this level are for under-23 players (aged 22 or below on August 31, 2011), with three over-aged players allowed in each line-up. At Super League level they are for U20s.