Rugby: Key quartet miss Moseley match

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The quartet, who all started the heavy defeat at leaders Bristol on Sunday, have been at the heart of the Islanders’ excellent form this season, but are unavailable for selection this weekend.

Forwards (1-8): Sam Lockwood, Nick Selway, Danny Herriott, Pierce Phillips, Uili Kolo’ofa’i, Alex Rae (capt), James Freeman, Nick Haining.

Backs (9-15): Sami Fisilau, Aaron Penberthy, Rich Lane, Mark Cooke, Oli Evans, Tom Howe, Ross Adair.

Replacements: Nacho Lancuba, Martin Garcia-Veiga, Simon Kerrod, Dave Markham, Tommy Spinks, Jack Moates, Rhys Owen.

Second-row Rowlands, who has been involved in every match since making his Reds’ debut in early November, has been recalled by parent club Wasps to provide cover for the duration of the Six Nations, while Gary Graham, Brendan Cope and Tua Otto are all ruled out through injury.

Oli Tomaszczyk is also absent after leaving the club by mutual consent to ‘seek other opportunities’. The former Newcastle Falcons prop departs having made ten appearances for the Reds in just over three months.

Graham and Cope, who have started every league match together since mid-September, join an extensive injury list, which already includes Australian second row Dave McKern, inside centre Lewis Robling and versatile back Mark McCrea – all of whom are out long-term. Having picked up a slight knock, Otto is rested as a precaution.

However, such is the current strength in depth, head coach Harvey Biljon believes his squad has ample cover for the absentees.

‘We’ve made a couple of forced changes through injury,’ explained the South African.

‘Will Rowlands has gone back to Wasps but luckily for us we are in a strong position in the second row, with the likes of Nick Campbell, Dave Markham and even Alex Rae who can play there … it should be a pretty seamless transition.

Will Rowlands has been recalled by Wasps as cover during the Six Nations

‘You never want to lose someone in form, who is starting and playing well, but we have the luxury of having Pierce, Uili, Markham and Campbell ready to step in – I believe it will be seamless.’

He added: ‘Gary has had a scan on his knee after the match at Bristol and it’s good bad news, if you like.

‘He is injured but does it mean his season is over? No, but a lot will depend on how it responds over the next few weeks.

‘And Brendan picked up a knock last week as well. We’re confident it will settle down, but we don’t want to stir it up and have him out for an extended period.’

Aaron Penberthy starts in place of the injured Cope, Kolo’ofa’i comes in at lock, Evans replaces Otto at outside centre, while captain Alex Rae is recalled to the back row.

Following a disappointing display – and 35-12 defeat – at Ashton Gate, Biljon claims his players are chomping at the bit to put things right.

However, he has warned them against complacency as they host relegation battling Moseley, who have just three wins in 14 league matches this term.

‘If the players could have played today, they would have,’ he continued.

‘I’ve already seen the reaction from the boys this week and I’m not over exaggerating when I say training has been exceptional.

‘But historically it’s been a pretty tough encounter with Moseley so I don’t think it will be easy. I don’t look at league positions because this league is that tight.

‘Moseley are a team playing for their lives, they’re going to be fighting for everything but we are focused on putting in another decent performance in front of our supporters and getting ourselves back on track straight away.’

The match starts at 3 pm.

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