Oldham ‘at full strength’

Date published: Wednesday, September 25, 2013

OLDHAM will be at full strength in Sunday’s promotion-deciding play-off final against Rochdale Hornets.

Players who picked up minor knocks and bruises in the 64-8 semi-final hammering of London Skolars were able to train normally last night.

Said coach Scott Naylor: “Everybody is fit and looking forward to the big day.

“We won’t be killing ourselves in training this week. The emphasis will be on staying calm and relaxed. There will be no break in routine.

“We’ll train again on Thursday night and Saturday morning just like we have every week over the last eight months.

“We don’t need to do anything differently. We’re getting ready for a game of rugby, just like we have done all season.

“And with five days to go, it’s too early to get embroiled in game-day specifics. The players will have lots of other things going on in their lives outside rugby between now and weekend.

“Come Sunday we’ll be relaxed, but we’ll also be ready. That’s the key.”

Naylor won’t announce his line-up until the day before the game, but it’s unlikely to show much change, if any.

With one exception — the return of Richard Lepori at full-back after international duty in place of injured Tom Whitehead — he stuck with the side that was pipped 23-22 by Rochdale in an earlier play-off round and it responded against Skolars by running up the Roughyeds’ biggest score of the season.

Thanks to their win at Whitebank, Rochdale didn’t play last weekend — a rest that was welcomed by coach Ian Talbot, who has fitness doubts surrounding two of his most experienced players, Wayne English and Chris Hough.

Said Talbot: “We’ve had two real battles in the play-offs, beating Skolars by two points and Oldham by one. We had a few battered bodies so the Sunday off came in handy.”

Even so, full-back English, the captain, is reported to be struggling with a groin injury, while hooker Hough is battling for fitness after going off in the Oldham game with a suspected fractured rib.

Added Talbot: “Chris (Hough) is keen to play, but he has suffered rib cartilage damage and there’s a possibility of a fracture as well.

“It’s about managing his pain. The final decision will be made by the medical experts.”

Dual-registered St Helens forward Joe Greenwood, who gave an impressive performance in Rochdale’s one-point win at Whitebank, has had his nose reset after breaking it in the Oldham game.

He seems certain to get the all-clear for the final, however, given that he was included in the Saints’ 19-man squad for their narrow play-off defeat at Leeds last weekend.

**THE Oldham team will set off from Whitebank for Leigh Sports Village at 11.30am on Sunday. Fans are invited to turn up and see them off. The club will be open from 10am to noon, showing DVD footage of the semi-final win over London Skolars.

Fans can have champagne and a bacon sandwich before leaving on club coaches (£15 all in, £10 for coach only), but breakfast and transport must be pre-booked on 0161 624 9630, extension 70552, or when buying match tickets at Whitebank.

The club will re-open at approximately 5pm in time for the return to Whitebank of fans and team.