Six of the best

Date published: Monday, April 22, 2013

SCOTT Naylor believes his SIX front-row forwards will be the driving force behind Oldham’s bid to climb out of rugby league’s third tier in his first season at Whitebank.

Having seen Michael Ward punching holes up the middle against Gloucester in his first run-out at prop, the Oldham boss says he will have no hesitation in using him in the engine room again.
As part of his squad rotation policy Naylor rested Chris Tyrer against the All Golds and experimented with centre or back-row man Ward as a replacement prop coming off the bench.
He started with Jason Boults and 19-year-old Callum Marriott and later replaced them with 21-year-old Phil Joy, in his first season on contract at this level, and play-anywhere Ward, himself only 22.
Speaking ahead of next Sunday’s big clash with Tony Benson’s Oxford at Whitebank, Naylor hailed the Ward experiment as an unqualified success and spoke highly of the squad’s strength in depth in the front-row of the pack.
He said: “All four props did a great job against Gloucester (Roughyeds won 36-0 away from home) and we didn’t use Tyrer and Liam Gilchrist, who is recovering from injury.
“Ward’s successful switch up front gives us six props. They are putting pressure on each other and that’s got to be good for the team.
“Joy is coming along well, too. In fact, he is playing extremely well. He’s getting used to the speed of the game now at this level, eradicating his little lapses of concentration and getting better every week.”
As preparation for the Oxford game, and the return to Whitebank of former boss Benson and several members of last year’s Oldham squad, Naylor arranged a closed-doors game in Salford on Saturday against a squad from the City Reds.
It comprised Salford first-teamers who didn’t play in the 82-6 Tetley’s Challenge Cup win against Gloucester, plus academy players.
Added Naylor: “We had two half-hour sessions. It was full-tackle and close to the real thing in terms of intensity and commitment. I would say about 80 per cent.
“Both teams got a lot out of it. You can’t always mirror a game situation in training, but this was just what I was wanting for the lads to keep their intensity and their fitness levels on a high.
“We’ve got only two scheduled games in May so we will be doing more of this to keep things ticking over instead of having ¬†weekends free.
“It’s hard to get any momentum going when you are not playing every weekend , but this is certainly one way of compensating.
“I’m hoping we’ll see the benefits of it against Oxford.”