Rotherham Titans begin their British & Irish Cup campaign on Saturday, having made nine changes to the side which lost at Bedford last time out, as they welcome Connacht Eagles in round one; kick-off at Clifton Lane is 2pm.
Rotherham, who are still searching for their first win of the season, will be eager for their new-look side to kick-start their season against the West Coast of Ireland outfit.
The teams previously met in the competition during the 2013/14 season, with each team winning the home tie.
Connacht snatched a 27-25 victory at the Sportsground with an incredible 62 metre last-kick-of-the-match penalty from Darragh Leader; whilst Rotherham ran out comfortable 59-3 winners in the return leg as they ran in nine tries.
Of the nine changes Titans have made this week, six have come in the pack. A complete new front row sees props Tom Williams and Andrew Foster come in for Toby Williams and Matt Shields, both of whom are rested; whilst at hooker Charlie Maddison starts his first game of the season and will captain the side, as Luke Cole is given a break.
In the second row and making his club debut is Guy Borrowdale; he comes in for the rested Byron Hodge. In a reshuffled back row Matt Postlethwaite, who is dual-registered from Sale Sharks, starts at blindside as Adam Peters moves over to openside for the rested Tom Calladine, and at number 8 Tom Burns makes his full debut for Dan Grange who took a knock to his head last week.
In the backline winger Wesley Hamilton makes his first Titans start as Ben Foley moves to full back for the rested Will Thomas, on the left wing Drew Cheshire returns to the side for the rested Jake Henry and completing the changes in the centres Yiannis Loizias comes in for Joe Barker who is nursing a couple of bumps and bruises.
On the bench are two players who have joined the club this week from Wasps on dual-registered terms. Scrum half Will Porter and back rower Tom Willis will make their Titans debut if called upon. Likewise, props Brandon Palmer and Nathaniel Opedo and utility back Jamie Cooke are also likely to debut at some point.
Speaking ahead of the game Titans Andy Key explained, “I think the side has been improving in every game; unfortunately it’s probably not been in the increments that we need it order to get the win. I thought to go to Bedford, knowing how good a side they are having watched some of their games and certainly their backline, I did feel we had an opportunity with a few changes we had implemented in our defensive system.
“The confidence in our attack is getting stronger and we believed we could go there and take them on. The first 20 minutes definitely showed that, but as good as we are improving, we can’t afford to concede some of the tries in the manner we did.
“This week we have a change in focus as we switch our attentions to the British & Irish Cup. We look forward to the challenge that Connacht will bring; we know they’ll bring a lot of heart, passion and plenty of fire in their bellies.
“We will use the game as an opportunity to look at the season as a whole and we’ll rest a few boys that have played a lot of rugby over the last 6 weeks and we’ll bring a few guys in who have been patiently waiting for their opportunities.
“It’s a bit different this week as we haven’t really had any footage to analyse where Connacht’s strengths and weaknesses are. It’s probably going to be a bit ‘old school’ where you try and found out where their strengths and weaknesses are in the first 15 to 20 minutes and I think that will be interesting.
“But I think that’s probably not a bad thing because it allows us to really focus on us; we’re at that stage where we need to find that win and we need to continue developing the way we want to play. We need to keep to our structures and to the way we want to play in the Championship.”
Titans: 15 Ben Foley, 14 Wesley Hamilton, 13 Yiannis Loizias, 12 Luke Peters, 11 Drew Cheshire, 10 Caolan Ryan, 9 Francisco Vieira, 1 Tom Williams, 2 Charlie Maddison (Capt.), 3 Andrew Foster, 4 Rob Louw, 5 Guy Borrowdale, 6 Matt Postlethwaite, 7 Adam Peters, 8 Tom Burns.
Replacements: 16 Jonny Murphy, 17 Brandon Palmer, 18 Nathaniel Opedo, 19 Tom Willis, 20 Will Porter, 21 Lee Millar 22 Jamie Cooke.