Sunderland Rugby Club face tough test against Durham Northumberland One table-toppers Darlington

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SUNDERLAND are hoping for third time lucky this week after seeing their fixtures postponed at the last minute in the last two weeks.

If the game does beat the weather, Sunderland face the toughest possible task as they welcome league leaders Darlington to Ashbrooke.

Darlington sit five points clear at the top of Durham/Northumberland One, with a game in hand over their nearest rivals and they will be chomping at the bit to extend that lead.

Sunderland were comprehensively outplayed when they travelled to Darlington in October, losing 38-10, but will take heart from the fact that Darlington have been prone to the odd slip-up on their travels.

Both Gosforth and Stockton have tripped Darlington up, while neither of those side were able to pick up even a losing bonus point on their visit to Ashbrooke.

However, Sunderland know they will have to be at their best if they want want to take anything from the game.

As far as selection goes, Martin Watt provides the pack with a boost as he returns to action in place of the unavailable Joe Arrowsmith in a move that sees a reshuffle in the back row, with Ross Finch starting at openside and Andy Mackie at blindside.

Matt Goforth starts on the wing and with Mark Henry available this week, he starts at nine, with Matt Francis dropping to the bench and Sam Vaughan to the seconds.

Jamie Maclennan slots into the backline in the centre and will be eager to impress after a year out injured.

Sunderland seconds travel to local rivals Horden looking for another victory.

Having made the difficult decision to drop out of the Candy League at the start of the season the season, Rob Stormont’s side has grown in confidence, putting in a number of good displays.

And the introduction of a number of the colts to senior rugby means there is healthy competition for places in the side.

The likes of Craig Elstob, Andy Wordsworth and Sam Vaughan will be looking to push their claims for a first-team spot for the coming weeks.

The third team also look to continue their good run of results when they travel to Wallsend. Any players interested in a game should meet at the club at 12.30.

Sunderland I at home to Darlington, 1pm meet: Robson, Harrison, Arrowsmith, Carter, Belfield, Mackie, Finch, Watt, Henry, Kingsley Smith, Goforth, Townend, Maclennan, Jordan, Littlewood. Reps: Buckley, Edmundson, Francis.

Sunderland II away to Horden, meet noon: Summers, Bengocha, Hall, Geehan, Elstob, Fish, Wordsworth, Reay, Penni, Parker, Matthews, Evans, Vaughan, Heffernan, O’Donovan, Gilberts, Arkley, Jermy, Tolley, Hands, Wardle.

Sunderland III away to Wallsend 12.30 meet: TBA.