SUNDERLAND face a daunting task on Saturday when they take on an in-form Alnwick side who are chasing a promotion play-off spot.
After four defeats on the bounce, Sunderland could not really have asked for a tougher test and their cause is not helped by a number of unavailable players.
In the forwards, the impressive Joe Arrowsmith will be a huge miss as he is away with the England Colleges side, while the regular second row partnership of Jake Belfield (concussion) and Peter Carter (back) are both still unavailable through injury.
Arrowsmith’s absence sees a rejig in the back row, with Ross Finch switching to the openside flank while youngster Grant Edmundson makes his debut for the first-team on the blind side.
Andy Wordsworth and Craig Elstob make up the second row, while Dave Robson returns to the side in the front row.
In the backs, Guy Kingsley-Smith is unavailable, so Matt Francis switches from nine to 10, with a fit-again Mark Henry returning to the side at nine.
Matt Goforth is once again unavailable, but Sean Bellon makes a welcome return from a shoulder injury to add a cutting edge to the backline in the centres, while Sam Vaughan and Jamie Maclennan take their places on the wing.
Sunderland seconds will hope to be able to keep up their run of form, but have to keep their fingers crossed they can pick a fixture up from the pool.
The third team have a local derby to look forward to as Seaham make the short journey to Ashbrooke to take on Tony Watt’s side.
Sunderland at home to Alnwick, 1.30pm meet: Robson; Harrison; R.Arrowsmith; Wordsworth; Elstob; Edmundson; Finch; Watt; Henry; Francis; Maclennan; Townend; Bellon; Vaughan; Littlewood. Reps; Buckley; Reay; Walton.
Sunderland II, Fixture TBC: Geehan; Bengochea; Summers; Wayman; Fish; Marshall; Matthews; Cogden; Brace; Heff; Tolley; Padgett; Gilbert; Hands; Wardle. Reps; Evans; Wedderburn; Hinder; B.Fish.
Sunderland III away to Seaham, 1.30pm meet: Marshall; Wright; Turnbull; Belfield; Jackson; Harrison; Hurst; Hogg; Richardson; Grainger; Gallimore; Graham; Duff; Wallace; Swann. Reps; Deighton; Edmondson; Green; Peel; B.Young; Cowans; M.Jones; Watson; Clint; C.Jones.