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Weymouth boosted by Gibson's return
VICE-CAPTAIN Joe Gibson is set to make a timely return to the Weymouth fold tomorrow as Paul Harding’s troops host third-placed Trowbridge (2.30pm).
The visitors are some way behind league leaders Devizes but have recorded four wins on the bounce and won seven of their last eight Southern Counties South matches.
So, with Trowbridge likely to give Weymouth a stern test, it is just the game for second row Gibson to make his comeback in after more than a month away due to work commitments.
“It’s good to have Joe back because he hasn’t played for us in a while,” said Harding. “He’s our vice-captain as well but has been working the last four or five weeks and that has had to take precedence.
“He is a big and strong lad so it will definitely be good to see him return to the pack for what is a tough game.
“Joel Wilson played again for the seconds last weekend so he has had a couple of games under his belt and I’d be delighted if he plays against Trowbridge on Saturday.
“James Ford comes back into the squad and should start on the bench and Will Eckersley is back after missing the last match.
“There will be no Harry Charles this weekend as he is unavailable but apart from that we’re not looking too bad.”
Only two points separated the sides when they met earlier in the campaign with Trowbridge edging home 24-22.
And while they were beating Walcot 32-10 last time out the majority of the Weymouth squad had their feet up as Harding’s team were without a fixture.
“Trowbridge are a good side with a strong pack and well-drilled set of backs,” he added. “It was fairly close when we played them before but they ran out winners in the end.
“We’ve learnt a lot of lessons this year and while we’ve played a couple of top sides who have been better than us a lot of the matches have been close.
“Sometimes when it comes to the last 10 or 15 minutes we have to consolidate what we’ve got and not push too hard. It’s an experience thing.”
Weymouth’s rivals, Dorchester also have home advantage when they entertain Frome (2.30pm), the club that is only one point behind them in the Southern Counties South table.
The county town outfit have lost the last two but did win the reverse fixture 31-12 at the end of October.
County town coach Martin Oxland will also have the luxury of picking from a near full-strength squad.
He said: “Several fringe players showed what they were capable of last week so selection will not be straight forward but that is a problem that every coach likes to have.
“We played some of our best rugby this season at their place and if we played at that level every week we would be a lot closer to the top of the table.”
In Dorset & Wilts One South, Bridport can take inspiration from rivals Blandford when they cross swords with league leaders Ivel Barbarians at home tomorrow (2.30pm).
Ricky Stubbs’ side enjoyed a walkover against Salisbury Seconds last weekend but face a team smarting from a 26-24 loss at Blandford.
It will be up to Stubbs and his players to add to the Barbarians’ woes while Puddletown will fancy their chances at home against Weymouth Seconds (2.15pm) in Dorset & Wilts Two South.
The fifth-placed Villagers triumphed 22-0 at Monmouth Avenue in October and with no new injury worries will be looking to secure a second double of the season.
But as for any derby game the form book could count for nothing and Weymouth are sure to bring a strong squad to Greenfields in an effort to upset the hosts.
Meanwhile, Dorchester Seconds host Fordingbridge Seconds.
And after coming so close to a precious victory last Saturday, Swanage & Wareham have a tricky-looking assignment when they entertain fourth-placed Swindon in South West One East (2.30pm).