COVENTRY Rugby welcome back loose head prop Andy Brown after a four-month absence for tomorrow’s National League One game against Fylde at Butts Park Arena.
Brown, who will be making his 96th league appearance for Cov, was last in the side in the home game against Blackheath on September 23 but, after surgery to his hand, returned to action in the Development XV at Bishop’s Stortford last week and now steps up to replace Nathanael Titchard-jones, who has been named in the Army side to play Nottingham.
League leaders Cov make three other changes to their 20-man squad with flanker Jack Preece, centre Anthony Matoto – who both collected knocks last week – and second row Nile Dacres all rested.
Tom Jubb, who has been on loan at Chinnor, replaces Dacres for his first appearance since coming off injured at Old Elthamians in November, while Brett Daynes and Tony Fenner come off the bench to start in place of Preece and Matoto.
Tom Emery, who scored a hat-trick of tries in the 64-0 win at Fylde in October, returns to the squad to start at full-back with James Stokes going to the bench where Paddy Ryan gets a first call as back row cover.
Cov also continue their rotation policy with Scott Tolmie, Luc Jeannot and Dave Brazier all coming off the bench to start in a change of roles with Phil Nilsen, Phil Boulton and Pete White.
The game pits top of the table against bottom with Cov’s director of rugby, Rowland Winter warning against complacency in a fixture his side, 15 points clear at the head of the table, will be expected to win comfortably.
“We have to acknowledge that Fylde will have nothing to lose, and when you combine that attitude with the style of rugby they play and the fact that they have improved considerably over the last eight or nine games, it makes them incredibly dangerous to play against,” said Winter.
“We’ve already had a clear demonstration of what can happen if there is any complacency, so we have to guard against taking anything for granted and make sure we go about our business in the right way, working hard for every metre.
“A number of players have the opportunity to stake a claim for the next couple of weeks ahead, and playing in front of the Butts Park crowd should give them motivation and be a good incentive.
“It’s good to have Andy back, he had a good work out last week and it’s great when you can bring in a player like that with so much experience who is raring to go and desperate to be playing. We’ve missed his involvement.
“Tom Jubb has been doing well at Chinnor and impressed here at training, he deserves his opportunity, and we wanted to get Tom Emery involved again.”
Centre Heath Stevens has been named as match day reserve as he continues his return to full fitness.
The game (3pm kick-off) follows the annual Cowshed Lunch which, a sell out, will bring together a host of past players including Harry Walker, England’s oldest surviving international, who will shortly celebrate his 103rd birthday, and there will be live post-match music from Gdansk.
Coventry Development meet Barnes 2nd in a Zoo Sports Shield fixture at Broadstreet (1pm kick-off).
Included in the replacements is newcomer, scrum-half Will Flinn.
Prop Tarik Tin, who has been playing for Towcestrians, is now on loan at Broadstreet, while Jack Higgins remains on loan at Wasps for their Anglo-Welsh Cup game at home to Leicester Tigers on Sunday. Fly-half Ben Palmer is ruled out for a second week with a leg injury.
COVENTRY: 15 Tom Emery, 14 Rob Knox, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Tony Fenner, 11 Max Trimble, 10 Will Maisey, 9 Dave Brazier, 1 Andy Brown, 2 Scott Tolmie, 3 Luc Jeannot, 4 Tom Jubb, 5 George Oram, 6 Latu Makaafi, 7 Brett Daynes, 8 Luke Narraway (captain). Replacements: 16 Phil Nilsen, 17 Phil Boulton, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Pete White, 20 James Stokes. Match day reserve: 21 Heath Stevens.
COVENTRY DEVELOPMENT: 15 Max Titchener’ 14 Louis Roach, 13 Joe Lane, 12 Kwaku Asiedu, 11 James Neal, 10 Brendan Burke, 9 Connor Adams, 1 Kai Owen, 2 Willie Priestley, 3 Jimmy Litchfield, 4 Cameron Gray, 5 Mike Ryan, 6 Kailus Hutchinson, 7 Sam McNulty, 8 Tom Price. Replacements: 16 Phil Ackuaku, 17 Matt Price, 18 Charley Robinson, 19 Myles Hibbs, 20 Sam Payne, 21 Victory Chamwada, 22 Will Flinn.
Tom Little previews the rest of this weekend’s National League One programme
Ampthill & District v Loughborough Students kick off 14.15
Birmingham Moseley v Esher
Coventry Rugby v Fylde
Hull Ionians v Bishop’s Stortford 14.00
Old Albanian v Blackheath
Old Elthamians v Darlington Mowden Park 14.00
Plymouth Albion v Caldy
Rosslyn Park v Cambridge
ROUND 21 Week pits top against bottom as Coventry Rugby host Fylde, whilst of the leading chasers, Darlington Mowden Park face a stern test away to Old Elthamians and third- placed Ampthill are at home to an inconsistent Loughborough Students.
Second-placed Darlington MP may be without their Newcastle dual registered players at sixth-placed Old Elthamians. Whilst DMP were scoring eight tries against Old Albanian last week, their hosts came up against a resilient Caldy side who gained a narrow win. Yet at home OE will be confident that they can defeat Park, and a win for them could take them up to fifth spot. Park are not so good away as at home but should be slight favourites to win to keep the pressure on Coventry.
Ampthill & District are at home against another relegation candidate in Loughborough Students, hoping that a win could even take them into second place. Although Students eased their relegation worries last week by beating Rosslyn Park, they should find Ampthill a more determined opponent. It could be close, but Ampthill are expected to gain a bonus point victory.
Plymouth Albion, who surprised many with their loss away to Cambridge, are at home to face a Caldy side fresh from a late victory over OEs. Albion should be favourites, but Caldy have enough experience to trouble most sides in NL1 so it could be very close.
Old Albanian are still in trouble in 15th place but now ten points from safety, and are at home to Blackheath whose results away from home have been poor. Both sides urgently need the win with Blackheath trying to take over fourth spot and OA needing to make inroads into Loughborough’s advantage. Despite being the underdog, OA will be looking for at least a bonus point.
Hull Ionians, in 14th place and four points from safety, are another side desperately needing the win, and at least they are back at home. They face Bishop’s Stortford who lost but put up a brave fight against the leaders last week. At home Ionians, if they can get their pack on top, stand a chance of causing an upset.
Birmingham Moseley, safely ensconced in the top half, have Esher as their visitors. Despite last week’s win over Hull Ionians, Esher are still only nine points above the relegation zone so need to get something out of this game. Moseley at home, and with a superior pack, should have a slight edge and should just shade this game.
Two sides who had contrasting results last week, Rosslyn Park and Cambridge meet at the Rock. Cambridge had an excellent win over Plymouth Albion, whilst Park let slip a half-time lead to lose heavily away to Loughborough. This is a game which could go either way as both sides are only separated by one place and two match points in the table.