Rotherham Titans will host Richmond this weekend in round 5 of the British & Irish Cup having made 12 changes to their starting XV; kick-off on Saturday at Clifton Lane is 2pm.
Although neither side can realistically qualify for the knock-out stages, Rotherham will be desperate to register their second win in the competition having beating Connacht in round one at home.
The game will be Titans’ new head coach, Nic Rouse’s first game in charge at Clifton Lane and he’ll be keen to kick-start his tenure with a victory.
However, the Titans having already lost to Richmond at home in the Championship and away in round 2 of the B&I Cup this season, realise they’ll not have everything their own way come Saturday afternoon.
Of the 12 changes made seven come in the pack with Titans opting for a new front row combination of Tom Williams, Luke Cole, who will captain the side and Brandon Palmer. Rob Louw retains his place in the second row and will be partnered by James Lasis.
In the back row Nic Dolly, dual-registered from Sale Sharks, will make his first start for the Titans at blindside, having debuted off the bench in the home defeat to Richmond back in September. On the opposite side is Dan Grange and at number is Tom Burns.
Along the backline there’s a new half back pairing of Francisco Vieira and Lee Millar; the latter’s inclusion sees Caolan Ryan moving to full back in place of Will Thomas. In the centres, Titans’ acting backs coach Joe Barker retains his spot and he’ll have Jamie Cooke alongside him in midfield and on the wings Wesley Hamilton and Drew Cheshire come in.
Speaking ahead of the game Nic Rouse explained, “We were pretty happy with our defensive performance at Hartpury for 60 minutes, but there was a little spell just after half time where they got a bit of a rumble on and scored some tries which gave them a cushion.
“We then had to play a bit of catch-up, but as the boys have done all year, they never gave up and worked their socks off right up until the end. On another day we would have converted our kicks at goal and the result could have been a different story.
“Richmond will give us an opportunity to play some of the boys who haven’t played a lot of rugby recently and we’ve selected some boys in different positions. That will give us an opportunity to see what they can do, which in turn will give us options going forward.
“We expect Richmond to send a strong side; they may promote a few boys from the second team, but overall we think it will be a strong side we face. They have a strong defensive line where they get as many people in the line as possible and they put you under massive pressure with their line speed. They like to be physical in the tackle, chop you behind the gain line and force you into making errors.
“We’ll need a strong set piece, the scrum has been working well of late and we need to keep building that and we need to be a bit more clinical with our line out. But if we can work on our set piece and get some dominance there, hopefully we can exploit some space out wide and take our opportunities.”
Titans: 15 Caolan Ryan, 14 Drew Cheshire, 13 Jamie Cooke, 12 Joe Barker, 11 Wesley Hamilton, 10 Lee Millar, 9 Francisco Vieira, 1 Tom Williams, 2 Luke Cole (Capt.), 3 Brandon Palmer, 4 Rob Louw, 5 James Lasis, 6 Nic Dolly, 7 Dan Grange, 8 Tom Burns.
Replacements: 16 Jonny Murphy, 17 Toby Williams, 18 Andrew Foster, 19 Adam Peters, 20 Charlie Maddison, 21 Ben Foley, 22 Jake Henry.