Fearing defeat could leave his team on the brink of a relegation battle, Neil Mitchell will field as experienced a line-up as is possible for the daunting trip to Tynedale tomorrow.

The Stourbridge director of rugby is concerned that a loss in the North East, followed by difficult fixtures against National Two pace-setters Redruth and Birmingham & Solihull next month, could leave his side starting the New Year with something of a bun-fight on their hands.

With that in mind Mitchell is demanding a more committed approach than the one they have demonstrated at times this term.

“I am looking at putting out a steelier side, 20 guys who will be a little bit more battle hardened and competitive than in recent weeks because I can’t afford another Cinderford,” he said in reference to the 20-12 defeat they received the last time the left the comforts of home. With good reason.

The Northumbrians have played six games at Tynedale Park this campaign and won each time. That includes a 49-15 hammering of pre-season promotion favourites Cambridge.

Steel does not necessarily mean age, however. Leading the way in the metallic stakes are the youthful pair of flanker Rupert Cooper and centre Ben Barkley who, Mitchell says, have been showing their team-mates the way forward.

“Despite his age Ben’s is the first name I put on the team-sheet because of his bottle,” Mitchell claims. “Both he and Rupert are new to senior rugby but you wouldn’t know it. They have shown maturity beyond their age.

“Rupert has made a phenomenal impact this season. He reminds me of Peter Buxton and I have no doubt he’ll end up in the Premiership. I just hope we can help him get there and enjoy him while we can.”