RUGBY LEAGUE: Baird blow as Oxford face Gateshead test

Oxford RL's JJ Baird is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury

Oxford RL's JJ Baird is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury

First published in Rugby League

Oxford RL will be without JJ Baird for the rest of the season after the second row forward suffered a knee injury in their 58-16 defeat by York a fortnight ago.

This is a big blow for Oxford, who have a mounting injury crisis as they bid to climb away from the lower reaches of the table.

For Sunday’s trip to north east to take on Gateshead Thunder, Glenn Osborn is ruled out after damaging his elbow in training, while Karl Temata continues to be out with a back injury.

Late fitness tests will be given to Sean Morris (hamstring), Value Bentley (knee) and Jimmy Rowland (knee).

Coach Tony Benson welcomes back Michael Crabtree and Dave Ellison after they missed the heavy York defeat for personal reasons.

Oxford, who did not have a game last week, will be looking for revenge against the Thunder after losing the last two encounters between the sides.

Gateshead ran out 47-28 victors at the International Stadium at the start of the campaign and then won 36-22 at Iffley Road last month.

Gateshead know they need to pick up the victory on Sunday as they sit just outside the playoffs Oxford will be trying to put pressure on the home side as they try and make one last push towards the play-offs.

Benson said said: “It’s going to be a difficult challenge, on and off the field, as it’s a long old drive up there.

“So we need to ensure our preparations are spot on.

“It is hard to predict what sort of side we will be facing.

“But they have brought in some experienced players over the past few months in the shape of Jamie Rooney, Lee Mapals and more recently Ben Hardcastle.

“So they are a side packed full of experience as well as youth.

“I am expecting a tough match this weekend.”

Oxford squad: Benson, Blaney, Blewitt, Briggs, Brooker, Crabtree, Connick, Davies, Egerton, Ellison, Evans, Hoggins, Hayles, Lynch, J Morris, S Morris, Mulkeen, Newton, O’Keeffe, Parker, Rice, Roden, Rowland, Sharratt, Slade-Jones, Thompson, Vickers, Winfield, Wright.

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