The last time Wharfedale lost their first two home matches was in season 2006/7; after that poor start, however, the Avenue proved impregnable, and Wharfedale finished in 6th position.
Darlington Mowden Park joined the division last season, but lost twice to Wharfedale, not helped by three yellow cards before half-time at the Avenue, one of them upgraded to a red late in the game. They arrive in second-bottom place, but this is misleading because, having given over their excellent stadium to the All Blacks for the World Cup, five of their first six matches will have been played away from home.
Wharfedale must do without Adam Howard, who suffered a dislocated ankle and fractured tibia during the warm-up at Henley; George Hedgley moves up to lock, Chris Howick starting at open-side with Josh Burridge moving to his preferred position of #6. Behind the scrum, James Doherty is once again available and Max Wright moves from full-back to centre, in place of Cameron Hudson who is on the bench; Maxime Labasse starts at full-back and Matt Van Sertima makes his first appearance on the wing in place of the injured Oli Cicognini. The bench features for the first time this season flanker Nathan Myers and promising prop Ricardo Cano.
Wharfedale: Max Labasse; Dan Tai, Max Wright, Huw Morgan, Matt Van Sertima; Jamie Guy, James Doherty (c); Joe Altham, Ian Larkin, Ali Wade, Jim Mason, George Hedgley, Josh Burridge, Chris Howick, Rob Baldwin. Replacements: Dan Stockdale, Ricardo Cano, Nathan Myers, Cameron Hudson, Harry Skelton.