GAVIN RHODES will play an unfamiliar role in a bid to help Huddersfield kick off their North I rugby union campaign in some style against Sheffield Tigers at Lockwood Park tomorrow (3.00).

At 6ft 5in and 18st, the signing from Barnsley has been shunted from back row to second row as coach Mark Sowerby shuffles his pack to cover for injuries.

Another switch comes in the backs, where Kiwi centre Rob McClaren makes his debut at full-back against the Tigers, who are now the predominant club in the Steel City.

Huddersfield are without hamstring-injury victims Ben Paxman and Tom Ainsworth, but Sowerby is confident his side have enough firepower to start the League with a win.

“We are having to switch things around a bit with Rob McClaren at full-back and Gavin Rhodes a reluctant second row, but we are in pretty positive mood,” said Sowerby.

“There is no way we can afford to take things for granted because Sheffield Tigers have secured two promotions in three seasons and will be looking to make their mark again, but I feel if we perform anything like we are capable of at home then we should be able to come out on top.

“They will want to come with a bang; we are guarded but confident and we’re all aiming to get off to a good start.”

The Tigers won promotion last season from North II East when they finished runners-up to champions Middlesbrough with 16 wins out of 22 games, and will be eager to make an early impression at this far higher level, particularly as they are in their 75th anniversary season.

They warmed up for their new campaign with a 24-19 pre-season friendly win at Beverley, who this season will play in National III North.

Huddersfield have warmed up well against Winnington Park and Morley and Sowerby explained: “There are some tough teams in our League this season so we want to get off to a good start.

“If we can put some points on the board in the first three or four weeks it all helps to build confidence and, after finishing fourth last season and making one or two additions this time, realistically we should be there or thereabouts again.

“Hopefully people will come here realising they are up against a strong team, one which is good at home, and that should be to our benefit.”

On tomorrow’s changes, Sowerby added:

“It’s a case of needs must, really.

“Gavin is a case of trying to push a square peg into a round hole because he much prefers the back row, but I’ve twisted his arm and I’m sure he’ll do a good job for the team in the second row.

“Rob is naturally a centre, but he’ll go in at full-back and show what a good player he is.”

Huddersfield: Howard, Gough, Stringwell, Pratt, Rhodes, Hinchliff, Whitehead, Sowerby, Clayton, Johnson, Shaw, Mortimer, L Paxman, Swift, McClaren. Subs: McPhail, Harris, Sharrock.