Knights left counting the cost of hectic fixture schedule

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Doncaster Knights are still counting the cost of an exhausting run of four games in nine days as they prepare for the visit of Bristol tonight in the play-off opener.

Brett Davey’s part-timers have lost two of their most influential playmakers in David McIlwaine and Tom Luke for the remainder of the season after they suffered injuries during the club’s nightmare end to the regular season.

Unsurprisingly, Doncaster lost all their games in that spell, as they played Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday, Friday.

It has left Davey with a threadbare squad for the most crucial stage of the season, and the way fixtures were shoehorned in still rankles with the head coach.

Davey said: “It was dangerous to ask players to play four games in such a short space of time and it has turned out that way.

“We’ve picked up injuries that we should never have been exposed to. All season long, we have based our training around skill and avoiding contact, and that goes out of the window when you’re asked to play two games in three days.

“The planning of the end of the regular season leaves a lot to be desired.”

Full-back McIlwaine has torn the pectoral muscle in his shoulder while fly-half Luke has also undergone shoulder surgery.

A number of niggling injuries were also sustained by Davey’s players, leaving Doncaster facing an uphill task in the play-offs.

“It’s made it virtually impossible for us, but we will channel our frustration in the right way and we’ll give it as good as we’ve got,” said Davey.

“There’s no pressure on us. We can chuck the ball about a bit and hopefully have some real fun out there.”

Tonight’s opponents Bristol finished top to Doncaster’s eighth and are the firm faviourites to win the play-offs and promotion back to the Premiership.

Doncaster do have the relatively recent knowledge of having beaten Bristol home and away last season to give them confidence.

Steven Shingler has been ruled ineligible for Scotland and is tied to Wales, the International Rugby Board have announced.

The 20-year-old Swansea-born London Irish fly-half or centre was included in Scotland head coach Andy Robinson’s provisional squad for the Six Nations, sparking an investigation into his eligibility.

The Scottish Rugby Union believed Shingler qualified through his Dumfries-born mother.

However, the Welsh Rugby Union contended Shingler was tied to them having played for their Under-20s side against France in 2011. Now the IRB have ruled Shingler is eligible only for Wales.