FOR Sudbury Rugby Club fans and officials, derby games are usually more synonymous with Bury, Colchester or Ipswich, but their new-look young guns will be ready to fire everything at Stowmarket for local pride.
County bragging rights will be at stake just as much as in the famed old battles with their more familiar neighbours when Stow visit Whittome Field on Saturday (2.15pm).
Coaches Scott Harries and Lee Cooper, pictured, have seven players, including themselves, unlikely to make the contest through injury and work commitments.
However, they have said those that do take to the field, in front of an expected bumper crowd, will be giving it their all to send their side off to the Christmas break on a winning note.
“When you play against a team a few miles up the road it is always about pride,” said Cooper, waiting to hear if he has fractured his ankle or just sprained it in the 29-24 win at East London on Saturday. “We have not got as much history (with Stowmarket) as the likes of Bury, Colchester and Ipswich, but these young lads coming through do not realise that and this is their time and this is the one they want to be winning.”
Stowmarket (fourth) go into the fixture 10 points above their newly-established rivals, having been two leagues apart from Sudbury only last season. But back then the Chilton Fields outfit toasted a cup victory over their higher-league opponents before Suds got their revenge by playing the role of party poopers at their 50th anniversary celebrations back in September (17-3 Sudbury). So there is plenty of added spice ahead of the third instalment, with Sudbury’s Christmas lunch set to bolster the crowd well above the 100-mark.
And Cooper, whose side moved up to sixth after youngster Fraser Beckett ran in a hat-trick on Saturday, believes there is a much better team spirit now evident in the dressing room.
He said: “They are generally enjoying their rugby at the moment and being around each other which we did not have last season.
“We have cold nights and 35 turning up to training. Scott and myself wanted to get them back to being a team this season and, from what we have heard, it was more a chore for them last season.”
With Tom Kellings, Ed Short, Jamie Brookes, Ben Savoury, Harries and Richard Lorking all set to be unavailable, with himself rated extremely doubtful, Cooper is set to be forced into a number of changes for their last game of 2011, until travelling to Newmarket for another Suffolk derby on January 7. But the omens are good with Alex Pears in the team, as Suds have won every game this season when their captain has been fit.