POOLE Pirates will begin the defence of their SGB Championship title when they visit Birmingham Brummies tomorrow (7.30pm).

Pirates finished top of the regular standings, as well as winning the play-offs last year.

However, their trip to Birmingham was one of the rare nights where Pirates returned home empty-handed.

In difficult conditions at Perry Barr Stadium, Pirates found themselves down to just five riders after just one heat, with Stefan Nielsen crashing out.

The Denmark-born Brit would not ride again all season, following rib and lung injuries.

After a delay of almost an hour, Pirates went on to lose 49-41, fielding just one rider in some heats, due to the fact they were already running rider replacement for the absent Benjamin Basso.

But Poole look set to head to the Midlands with a full-strength septet this time around.

Neil Middleditch's men began their season with a comfortable two-legged Knockout Cup win over Plymouth Gladiators last week and now turn their attentions to the league campaign.

Looking ahead to the trip to Birmingham, Pirates promoter Danny Ford told the club's website: "It was one of three tracks where we failed to pick up a point last season.

"It wasn't really our night on that visit, but only lost by eight so hopefully we can improve on that this time around and get our league campaign off to a decent start."

Birmingham have suffered a blow, losing James Shanes to a suspected concussion following a crash in a grasstrack meeting over the weekend.

Brummies will now operate rider replacement. Among their squad of six for the night will be Nielsen, who was snapped up by Birmingham during the off-season.

Birmingham boss Laurence Rogers told their club's website: “It’s great to have Poole down at Perry Barr and it should be a great meeting.

“We will respect them of course, their top three is amazing and they are the champions.

“A spearhead of Steve Worrall, Danny King and Richard Lawson reminds me of some of the Cradley teams I was involved in back in the 80s, at Championship level that’s super-strong.

“All I ask of my boys is that they give it their very best and with the weather looking set to stay dry we can see the real value of our new track which should provide plenty of entertainment."

Pirates: Steve Worrall, Zach Cook, Richard Lawson, Ben Cook, Danny King, Drew Kemp, Nathan Ablitt.

Brummies: Claus Vissing, rider replacement for James Shanes, Josh Auty, Ashley Morris, Adam Ellis, Stefan Nielsen, James Pearson.