Rugby union: College boy Greene ready to help beef up Longton
ENGLAND youth star Curtis Greene has been drafted in to make his Longton debut on Saturday.
The 18-year-old, hooker for his country and number eight for Staffordshire Cup-winning St Joseph's College, will start in the front row at Newport.
His switch to Trentham Fields from Trentham Colts comes as a former Longton prospect has emerged as a new star in the Premiership.
Just three years ago scrum-half Dan Robson was, like Greene, mixing game time for Longton in National Midlands Three with experience at international under-18s level.
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Now aged 20, he has won plaudits for Gloucester this term laying down a marker in the number nine jersey before World Cup-winner Jimmy Cowan arrives at Kingsholm tomorrow.
Longton director of rugby Tony Wheat said: "It has been fantastic to see Dan make that step up this season. He's a good lad who has worked hard and has stacks of talent.
"Curtis is still only 18, so he's got plenty of time. Craig Wilson and Scott Rawlings, who have coached him in the past, both rate him very highly.
"There is a lot of junior rugby being played now, so anyone who makes it into the national set-up has to be worth their salt.
"He's a big, strong lad and he's looking to play at a good level. We have a couple of injuries so he can come straight in and help us in the short and long-term.
"Front row is always a tricky area and he gives us options."
Robson has started in all four of Gloucester's top-flight matches this campaign after being given a chance during their wait for new signing, New Zealand star Cowan.
The former Newcastle-under-Lyme School pupil, who was also a junior with Stoke, is not daunted by the competition for selection.
He said: "Jimmy comes with a lot of experience that's going to be invaluable to the team, but he knows as well as anybody he's not going to be able to just play week in, week out.
"It's one of the toughest leagues in the world and you've got to be able to rotate.
"(Fellow scrum-half) Dave Lewis and I have had to really put down a marker, but we're both looking forward to Jimmy coming – there won't be anyone better to learn from than a man with 50-plus caps for the All Blacks."
As for Longton, captain and centre Luke Fowles, prop Matt Davies and back row Rich Thompson all return for their difficult assignment against Newport.
However, centre Rawlings (wrist) is expected to be out until at least December, while loose-head Tim Wareham (hand) and hooker Craig Wilson (suspended) are also on the sidelines.
Wheat's side needed to deliver a strong second-half showing to overcome local rivals SANDBACH last weekend, and the coach is looking to at least match that level again.
He said: "Newport lost 57-29 to Nuneaton last weekend, but they still scored five tries against the division's form side.
"They lost a few players to Dudley Kingstonians during the summer, but they seem to have done a reasonable job bringing in replacements.
"It's always a tight game between the two of us, either at home or on the road, but we will be looking for a win to give us that bit of momentum."
Promoted Sandbach face a first ever visit to Scunthorpe confident they have not been too badly shaken by squandering a 13-3 half-time advantage at Longton.
Manager Stuart Battersby said: "It's very clear that in this league there will be no easy games.
"We are good enough to win the majority of the fixtures, but we do have to reduce the penalty count, concentrate and up our game and maintain possession in the last 25 minutes."