PIRATES will be missing two of their strike weapons for their trip to the cold country tomorrow with Josh Stewart and Jake Douglas tied up with Country duties.
They’ve got a training weekend with the Cockatoos squad at Hurlstone Ag College so won’t play against Walcha.
Douglas received a call-up to the squad after being unlucky to miss out on the initial squad, and will join Stewart and Scone’s Ryan Jackson at the two-day camp.
Pirates also have Doug Biffin, Barton Leach and Tim Fonua out, forcing mass changes in the pack and some rejigging to the backline.
Notably, James Trappel will come into five-eighth with Andrew Moodie shifting one-out to inside centre and Greg White moving to outside centre.
They head to Walcha on the back of two strong wins but won’t be taking the Rams lightly.
“They probably haven’t had as good a run as they would have liked but, knowing the nature of the club and knowing what we’ve faced the last couple of years, we really need to be prepared for anything,” coach Andrew Verrell said.
They will certainly test their defence.
“They’ve been one of the most exciting teams in the last couple of years,” he said, with the attacking style they’ve played.
Pirates are having one of their best starts to the year for a couple of seasons and, importantly, have been starting games well.
“We’ve started well every game,” Verrell said.
“I want to keep that going.”
He said they need to take the same attitude into tomorrow as they did against Gunnedah and he won’t be asking for too much different from them.
He would like to see their handling improve though.
All three games it’s been terrible, he said, which is a bit disturbing, but it hasn’t hurt them too much yet.
The Rams are yet to register a point but took it up to defending champions Moree last week.
There wasn’t that much in it at half-time and coach Andrew Jack said they took a lot out of their performance.
“We know once Moree are under pressure they don’t like it,” Jack said.
He thought they showed some cracks in the Bulls’ armour.
“What we worked on last week paid off against Moree,” he said.
“We got two tries which was a bit more than other sides.”
Pirates won’t be any easier and Jack said it would require an 80-minute effort to get the result.
He said one area he noticed an improvement in against the Bulls was their recycling of the ball.
Their options running off the ball carrier were also better.
“Our scrum platform had Moree going backwards and our lineout improved,” Jack said.
He’s hoping Simon Newton will be right for tomorrow.
He’s missed the last couple of games with injury.
“If he does, he’ll strengthen the backline,” he said.
They already look like being without Richard Young for the season.
He had back spasms against Gunnedah which seem to have got worse.
In other games Narrabri hosts Scone, Tamworth is at home to Barraba, Quirindi heads to Gunnedah and the Bulls make their way to Inverell.