Rotherham Titans go into the big South Yorkshire derby against Doncaster Knights on Saturday having made 6 changes to their starting XV; kick-off at Clifton Lane is 2pm.
Following a much-improved second half display last time out in the British & Irish Cup at Ealing, Rotherham go into round 12 of this Greene King IPA Championship encounter with raised confidence.
Knights visit to Clifton Lane is the biggest game of the season for Rotherham and following a disappointing campaign to date, the Titans will see this game as an opportunity to kick-start their season as they attempt to climb the league table.
However, no game against the Knights is an easy one and the overall league record between the sides sees Doncaster hold a healthy 15-10 advantage. Indeed Titans visit to Castle Park back in September saw them suffer their heaviest defeat to their fierce rivals with a 44-0 loss.
Of the 6 changes Titans have made to their line-up three come in the pack. At loosehead prop Toby Williams is given the nod over Tom Williams who drops to the bench. Matt Postlethwaite comes in at lock for the injured Guy Borrowdale and in a reshuffled back row Captain Tom Calladine starts at number 8 as Dan Grange drops onto the bench.
Along the backline a new half back combination of Rhodri Davies and Caolan Ryan come in for Francisco Vieira and Lee Millar respectively, whilst at inside centre Joe Barker starts his first Championship game, following a foot injury, since early October.
On the bench and making his Titans debut, should he be called upon, is wing/centre Paolo Odogwa who the Titans have brought in this week from Premiership side Sale Sharks on dual-registered terms.
Speaking ahead of the derby Titans Andy Key explained, “Our second half performance at Ealing was pleasing and I think it was good preparation for Doncaster. We played a really smart game in the second half and as a result that frustrated Ealing because they didn’t have the control they’d had in the first half.
“On the back of that game the boy’s confidence levels are good and our training sessions have gone really well. We’ve fine-tuned one or two areas, but at the end of the day our core product still has to be the same, making sure we’re not putting ourselves under unnecessary pressure, reducing the mistakes, playing in the right areas of the field and then when we get our opportunities we have to be clinical.
“We know where the majority of Doncaster’s strength lies and that’s in their forwards. They’re physical, aggressive and they know how to manipulate the ball around the field. They have definite plan of looking to scrum to penalty, to kick into the corner and to set up the driving maul. But they also have the ability to play when they need to, they’ve got a good set of backs with good pace in the back three and they’re not just about the forwards.
“We have to be smart against them; we need to match them physically and go toe-to-toe with them and understand we need to put in an 80-minute performance. It’s a massive derby game for us and it’s going to be a full-on battle, but if there were ever a time to turn the corner and turn your season around, then this is just the game for that to happen.”
Titans: 15 Will Thomas, 14 Ben Foley, 13 Drew Cheshire, 12 Joe Barker, 11 Jake Henry, 10 Caolan Ryan, 9 Rhodri Davies 1 Toby Williams, 2 Jonny Murphy, 3 Sam Nixon, 4 Matt Postlethwaite, 5 Rob Louw, 6 Adam Peters, 7 Charlie Maddison, 8 Tom Calladine (Capt.).
Replacements: 16 Tom Williams, 17 Luke Cole, 18 Brandon Palmer, 19 Dan Grange, 20 Tom Burns, 21 Lee Millar, 22 Paolo Odogwa.