LEAGUE leaders Lydney have signed Cinderford prop Seb Merritt in a bid to solve their front row crisis.
Tighthead Merritt will play tomorrow in the Severnsiders’ crucial clash with second-placed Redingensians, which boss Duncan Bell has billed as their toughest test of the season so far.
The 34-year-old’s signing is a coup for Lydney, who have struggled with depth in the front row due to injuries.
Loosehead prop Paul Price is facing a suspension after being sent off in the Severnsiders’ 24-5 win over Old Redcliffians last weekend for fighting.
Tighthead Zen Szwagrzak is suffering with broken ribs, hooker Mike Wallace is only just fit again after dislocating his shoulder and tighthead Matt Gore is also injured with a torn biceps.
The injuries have forced former Bath and England tighthead Duncan Bell out of retirement and back into the scrum.
The 39-year-old has previously expressed a desire to pour 100 per cent of time and resources into coaching the squad as opposed to playing, and he welcomes the new signing.
Bell said: “It is great to have another prop at the club.
“I hope he has signed for the rest of this season and beyond. He has had limited opportunities at Cinderford playing second-team fixtures.
“Hopefully at Lydney, he will play well, enjoy the club atmosphere and the fanbase, and want to be a part of it for a long time.
“He is a big lump, in the nicest way, and will do fine in the scrum.
“He will have to learn moves quickly, especially in our line-out, because a lot of the movement revolves around the prop.
“He has a lot to take on but he is a bright lad.
“We have taken a couple of players from Cinderford, including Danny Trigg, Dewi Scourfield and Jack O’Connell.
“They have all been second-team players. Hopefully players like that will set a precedent and others will want to come to Lydney and want to be a part of this successful club.
“In a way it is good for both clubs; we will become more competitive and it will motivate Cinderford as well.”
Fresh personnel will be a boost to Lydney, as they prepare for one of the toughest games of the season in Berkshire.
The Severnsiders won the reverse fixture 48-7, but played against a 14-side Redingensians for 60 minutes.
But in the first 20 minutes, Bell believes Redingensians had the advantage.
He added: “If we had been playing against 15 men, it would have been a lot closer.
“I like to think we would still have won it but it wouldn’t have been by 40 points, that was a bit of a false scoreline.
“We know it will be a battle at their place. We have to be on our mettle.”
Number eight Charlie Daniell (wrist) and Matt Taylor (calf/hamstring) have been ruled out.