YORK City Knights have suffered THREE big blows ahead of their tough trip to high-flying Toulouse Olympique.

Captain Tim Spears and star packman Graeme Horne will both stay at home after being ruled out by hamstring and calf strains respectively.

Furthermore, Nick Rawsthorne's one-month loan from Toronto Wolfpack is now up and the table-toppers have recalled him rather than extend his stay.

Joe Batchelor, as feared, has also remained at St Helens following his recall prior to the Easter programme.

New loan signing Cain Southernwood, meanwhile, will be thrown straight in at the deep end, starting Saturday's game (2.30pm UK time) at half-back after just one training session with the team.

Spears came off early in Easter Monday's terrific comeback win over Widnes and is likely to be out for "two or three weeks", according to head coach James Ford. Horne is likewise a big doubt for next week's game against Batley.

Ford said: "Any side in the Championship would miss Graeme Horne or Tim Spears and their leadership, experience, ability and grit.

"But it gives someone like Ronan Dixon or Marcus Stock some invaluable experience to step into their shoes. You can throw Dave Petersen into that as well.

"It's going to be a challenge but if people respond like I believe they will, it should be a cracker on Saturday."

Asked if Rawsthorne's return to the Wolfpack was a surprise or blow, Ford said: "Toronto have picked up some injuries so it's not a surprise.

"It's not ideal. It's another challenge thrown in there.

"But I've got hard-working players who are very together to come into the side. It's another opportunity for them and I'm looking forward to seeing them take it."

Southernwood agreed his switch from Hunslet yesterday and was only due his first session at York this evening.

The team then fly out to south France tomorrow, play the following afternoon and fly back the same night.

Fellow on-loan half-back Lewis Heckford, who played in the Good Friday defeat at Featherstone, is also set to travel, having been named in the 19-man squad.

Ford said: "Cain's a quality player or has good potential to be a quality player.

"He has ability with the ball and an outstanding short kicking game and he's a good communicator.

"He's played over 100 Championship games (for Batley and Whitehaven) and played in Super League (for Bradford).

"He's found himself out of favour at Hunslet but if he works hard we could have found a little gem here."

Asked why Southernwood was not currently in the team at the League One outfit, Ford said: "That's something for Gary (Thornton, Hunslet coach).

"Hunslet are winning and Gary's pretty reluctant to change a winning side. Cain understands that. It's up to them. What it has meant is that he has become available and I'm grateful he has."

He added: "Challenges bring out the best in people and he's got an opportunity to go there and get a combination going with (scrum-half) Connor Robinson and see if he can put Toulouse under some pressure."

Asked if Heckford, now further down the pecking order, was still in his thinking, Ford said: "We only have three fit half-backs so he's not far away from the team. I do believe he's got potential.

"There's stuff in his game he needs to improve. He needs to get some minutes out on the field and get some guidance in training.

"I do think in 12 or 18 months he could be a really good player."

Rawsthorne's departure sees Perry Whiteley recalled to the back line after injury.

Southernwood's arrival allows Will Jubb to revert to hooker and Petersen in turn to start in Spears' loose-forward berth.

Ronan Dixon is fit again to replace Horne up top, while Josh Jordan-Roberts is also in the 19.

Knights (probable): Marsh, Whiteley, Bass, Salter, Mazive, Southernwood, Robinson, Baldwinson, Jubb, Teanby, Stock, Scott, Petersen. Subs: from Brining, Hey, Blagbrough, Dixon, Jordan-Roberts, Heckford.