An injury crisis may be the last thing newly-promoted Doncaster Knights need, but director of rugby Clive Griffiths is confident his side can do more than just get by with a little help from their friends.
With seven important first-team players currently absent through injury, including first-choice centre-partnership Mat Clark and Andrew Bulumakau, the Knights fell to their fourth consecutive Greene King IPA Championship defeat with a hard-fought 19-9 loss to London Scottish last time out.
The recent slump is in stark contrast to a sterling run of form that saw Doncaster triumph in three of their first four games following promotion from National League One.
Griffiths admits the injury problems have been slightly alleviated by a close relationship with Leicester Tigers that has seen young prospects Riccardo Brugnara, George Catchpole, Tiziano Pasquali and Rhys Williams all turn out for the Knights.
Yet while Griffiths believes his side’s initial run could still prove vital come the end of the season, he is determined to recruit further to ensure Doncaster achieve more than just beating the drop.
“We have only let ourselves down in one half of rugby this year against Moseley, which was a self-inflicted loss but we are confident we can survive,” said Griffiths, who bolstered his ranks further with Fijian international Viliame Veikoso penning a one-year deal on Wednesday morning.
“It’s nice to have that buffer already and I’m sure we will pick up at least a few more wins as long as no-one hits the panic button.
“Our injury list at the moment is a mirror image of last year when we had 35 points out of 35 then all of a sudden we get a host of injuries and things get tough.
“And the same has happened this year – our centres Mat Clark and Andrew Bulumakau were in top form and it was cruel to see them cut down in full flow and out for a considerable period of time.
“I have to bring people in but Leicester have been fantastic, so we’re not short of friends.
“All the guys who have come in have been brilliant and we’re very grateful for the relationship.”
Although the Knights were only out of the Championship for one season, Griffiths admits the league has got a lot tougher in their absence but is drawing confidence from competitive performances against high-flyers Bristol and London Scottish.
And while the league campaign is proving a challenge, Doncaster are hoping to receive a boost as they try to make it four wins from four when the British & Irish Cup resumes this weekend.
Yet Griffiths is wary of facing a Bedford Blues side that will be hurting after a heavy 65-14 defeat to Cornish Pirates in the Greene King IPA Championship.
“We came back at the first attempt, which shows what the club is about and we’ve clearly got the right personnel to survive in this league, with the right atmosphere and ethos,” he added.
“This league is a lot tougher than when we last played in it – the standards of the teams and players have gone up and it’s a really good division for people to learn their trade in.
“We’re doing well in the British & Irish Cup and can use it to get back to winning ways.
“We lost our last league game before beating Cross Keys and I’m hoping for the same scenario.
“But this weekend there is only one reaction that Bedford can have to their thumping by Pirates last week so we’ve got to be on our guard.”
Formed in 2009, the Greene King IPA Championship is the second tier of professional rugby union in England. To keep up-to-date with all the latest news follow @ChampRugby on Twitter, or visit www.rfu.com/championship