Rotherham Titans travel for their first-ever league fixture at College Stadium this weekend when they take on Hartpury RFC in round 13 of the Greene King IPA Championship; kick-off on Saturday is 2:30pm.
Following Titans home defeat to Doncaster last time out, their 12th consecutive league defeat, Rotherham parted company with head coach Andy Key and appointed forwards coach Nic Rouse as their new head coach.
Rouse, 36, will be keen to make an immediate impact in his new role, and having taken charge of his side’s preparations this week is confident if all goes well, the Titans can collect their first league win of the campaign.
However, with Hartpury 19 points ahead of the South Yorkshire side in the table, Rotherham are aware it won’t be an easy task against the college based side. Debutants to the division, Hartpury have made a good fist of their inaugural Championship season having picked up three victories and 8 bonus points along the way.
Going into the game Rotherham have made just one change to the starting XV that lost to local rivals Doncaster Knights, with dual-registered utility back from Sale Sharks, Paolo Odogwa, promoted from the bench to outside centre as Drew Cheshire drops to the bench.
Commenting on his predecessor’s departure and looking ahead to the Hartpury game, Nic Rouse explained, “We were all disappointed to see Andy leave, but unfortunately Rugby, like all other professional sports is a results driven business and we weren’t getting the results on the pitch and unfortunately Andy has gone. Andy brought a great deal of detail to our preparations and unfortunately the players and staff couldn’t get the results needed.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for me; I’m relatively a young coach having finished playing only 2 years ago, so I see this as an exciting opportunity moving forward. I’ve now got a period of time where we can roll-the-dice a little bit and hopefully put in some good performances and pick up a few results along the way.
“We can’t make any wholesale changes for the Hartpury game as we’ve only had a 3 day turnaround following the Christmas break. However, we’ll have a bit more time next week and then leading into the B&I Cup games to make a few changes.
“So initially we won’t change too much, but we will have a bit more emphasis on areas of our game where we think we can go to Hartpury and cause them some problems and without giving too much away that’s what we’ve been working on this week.
“Hartpury are one place above us in the league table and if we can go there and get a result that would give everyone around Clifton Lane a real lift. A win would instil some confidence into the players and our belief will grow from that and then we can build some momentum going forward.
“They have a good blend of experienced players from the Premiership, especially in their pack which makes them a strong unit. In the backs they have plenty of quality and speed, particularly in their back three and we can’t just kick aimlessly to them because they’ll punish us. Our kicking game will need to be precise and we’ll need to compete in the air when we do so.
“I think we showed last week in the first half against Doncaster that our defence was pretty good having only managed 36% possession and we still went in at half time with a lead. Our defence will be crucial against Hartpury if we are going to get anything from the game; we know they will pose us some problems and our defence has to be ready and able to cope with what they throw at us. However, if we can nullify that I believe we have a great opportunity to notch-up that first league victory.”
Titans: 15 Will Thomas, 14 Ben Foley, 13 Paolo Odogwa, 12 Joe Barker, 11 Jake Henry, 10 Caolan Ryan, 9 Rhodri Davies 1 Toby Williams, 2 Jonny Murphy, 3 Sam Nixon, 4 Rob Louw, 5 Matt Postlethwaite, 6 Adam Peters, 7 Charlie Maddison, 8 Tom Calladine (Capt.).
Replacements: 16 Luke Cole, 17 Tom Williams, 18 Brandon Palmer, 19 Dan Grange, 20 Tom Burns, 21 Lee Millar, 22 Drew Cheshire.