SUNDERLAND will look to bounce back from last week’s disappointment against Redcar with a trip to Barnard Castle in Durham and Northumberland Division Two on Saturday.
Sunderland enjoyed a comfortable win over Barney earlier in the season, and they have struggled with two heavy defeats in recent weeks.
However, on their own patch, they will be a tougher nut to crack.
More changes are enforced on Sunderland, this time in the pack.
Two of this season’s star performers are missing in Jake Belfield (broken hand) and Martin Watt (hamstring), so James Hansen and James Cogdon are drafted in.
Hansen comes into the second row, while Cogdon has the unenviable task of deputising for Watt at number eight.
Sunderland will look to both of their big men to make the hard yards that Watt and Belfield have done so well for the Ashbrooke club this year.
Peter Carter will partner Hansen in the second row, and the rest of the back row remains the same, with Brian Finlay on the openside and John Drummond at blindside. Damion Martinez, Pete Harrison and Hector Ross once again make up the front row.
There is better news on the injury front for Sunderland in the backline, with Matt Goforth and Harry Levison both fit again and ready to resume a partnership that was starting to blossom until injury struck.
Levison comes in for Andy Sumner, who is not available, while Goforth replaces Dom Arkley, who reverts to his usual role on the wing.
Dan Abraham sits out after playing for a number of weeks with a broken wrist and he is replaced on the wing by Sam Vaughan.
Gav Stirling and Tom Townend continue their partnership at scrum-half and fly-half.
Sunderland I (away to Barnard Castle; meet 11.45am, KO 2.15pm): Martinez, Harrison, Ross, Carter, Hansen, Drummond, Finlay, Cogdon, Stirling, Townend, Arkley, Levison, Goforth, Vaughan, Heffernan. Reps: Geehan, Wordsworth, Brace
H Table-topping Horden are away to second-bottom Novos, who have won just once this season, in Division One on Saturday, while third-placed Durham City visit fourth-top Darlington, who only trail the Hollow Drift outfit on points difference.
H Seaham, now down to third place after successive defeats, entertain Yarm in Division Three, while Houghton, who have slipped down to fifth-bottom spot, have their derby against second-bottom Washington at Biddick. The Newtowners will hope to build on their victory over Yarm in their last home game.