Edinburgh Monarchs aim to outsprint Oxford Cheetahs in KO Cup - but are wary of Sam Masters' threat
The two sides go head-to-head in the KO Cup quarter-final with the first leg at the Oxford Stadium tonight before the return fixture at Armadale on Friday.
A two-time league winner with the Monarchs in 2014 and 2015, the 31-year-old Australian, who racked up 233 appearances in the blue and gold, made the decision not to return to the Capital outfit this year citing travel and family commitments. Masters is based in the Midlands due to his racing with Premiership club Wolves and, with partner Tegan having given birth to the couple's second child at the end of last year, he admitted the weekly trip north of the border was likely to be too big an ask and signed for Championship rivals Oxford instead.
However, co-promoter and team manager Alex Harkess said: "Sam will always be one of us. He's our rider, he's our asset and he's one of our family for the want of a better word - and always will be. He left us saying he hoped to be back and I'm sure that's the case. I understand all his reasons for not coming to Edinburgh this year, they were well documented and I wish him well. But I just don't wish him well this week!
"It's important we keep it very close tonight to give us a chance on Friday. We've got Sam back so we've got to have people who can gate in front of him. We know what's he's capable of at Armadale but there's Scott Nicholls who also does very well."
Meanwhile, Monarchs have brought in Glasgow Tigers No.1 Chris Harris as a guest tonight. He replaces skipper Josh Pickering, who crashed heavily in the defeat at Berwick on Saturday and suffered a shoulder injury.