Oxford Harlequins director of rugby Tevita Vaikona has urged his players not to panic despite the club’s wretched start to the National 3 South West season.
Quins face London Irish Wild Geese at North Hinksey Lane tomorrow, having lost their opening four games and shipped 230 points, while their high-flying opponents have won all four of their matches.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” admitted Vaikona. “We have not had a consistent team because of unavailability and mainly injuries. It has been really, really tough.
“We have conceded a lot of points and we are trying to tighten that up.
“It is also a reflection of our age. We have a lot of young guys.
“You have just got to make sure you believe in what you do and keep to the basics of rugby and do them better, don’t panic and don’t do things that you are not used to.”
Quins are working on boosting the squad by recruiting players who have moved to the area, and they give a debut to centre Alan Johnson from Sheffield.
He comes into a side which shows a host of changes from the one battered 65-12 at Exmouth last week.
Hooker Chris Davies, second row Nick Graham and flanker Tim Knapp are all set to start, while forwards Luke Brown, Simon Chadbone and Charlie Sammut are all in contention.
Centre Peter Halatokua, second row Alex Powell, Paul De Lange, and Harry Whittington are out, while winger Harry Burn is away at Southampton University.
Chinnor must steel themselves for a series of testing matches, starting with tomorrow’s National 2 South trip to Canterbury.
That is the view of head coach Jason Bowers, who stressed his players cannot let their standards slip after picking up 11 points from three matches.
“I think Canterbury will be a very tough game,” said Bowers. “They are a well-drilled side up front and have the ability to throw the ball around.
“We know that after Canterbury we have got four big fixtures with Worthing and Hartpury, who are likely promotion contenders, at home, plus long trips to Lydney and Redruth.”
Wing Pip Seymour is on holiday, with Tom Gray set to replace him.
Backs Mark Chase, Ricky Hopwood and Sam Angell are added to the squad.
Centre Ali James returns for Henley Hawks’ trip to Taunton Titans.
James, who was on physio duty with Oxford University in Portugal, is paired with regular midfield partner Danny Wells.
Captain Tom Allen reverts to full back, with Martin Nutt moving to the wing and Xavier Andre dropping to the bench.
It is one Lamb in, one Lamb out as Witney host Newbury Blues in South West 1 East.
Henry Lamb returns at fly half, but his twin brother, James, is unavailable.
Prop Alan Richens gets a start after coming off the bench in last week’s defeat at Marlow.
Chinnor (v Canterbury, away): from Colver, Gray, Goode, Stoop, Corpe, Fielding, Cathcart, Jones, Winpenny (capt), Whelan, Caw-ston, Pickett, Berry, Mowbray, Smith, Wood, Gilbert, Sawyer, Kava, Chase, Hopwood, Angell.
Henley Hawks (v Taunton Titans, away): Allen (capt), Nutt, James, Wells, Briggs, Comben, Shaylor, Maddocks, Clarke, Hadfield, Dwyer, Cannock, Payne, Newman, Stapley. Reps: Milford-Scott, Steventon, Downing, Woodward, Andre.
Oxford Harlequins (v London Irish Wild Geese, home): from Davies, Edney, Kalemani, Graham, Neal, Forde, Rees, Maspero, Cosins, Todd, Briggs, Johnson, Hilton, McCaffery, Knapp, Ward, Chad-bone, Brown, Sammut.
Witney (v Newbury Blues, home): Clarke, Monks, Murton, T Gardner, L Collins, H Lamb, G Campbell, Fuller, S Collins, Richens, M Copperwheat, Haire, Muller, C Campbell, J Hicks (capt). Reps: Calley, Rihan, L Manning.