COVENTRY Rugby have been forced into one change for tomorrow’s game at Plymouth Albion with scrum-half Pete White ruled out by illness.
Dave Brazier starts in White’s place with Ben Palmer coming on to the bench in an otherwise unchanged squad with director of rugby Rowland Winter insisting it is business as usual for the National League One champions.
Cov clinched the title at Caldy last weekend with five games to spare, but Winter says there will be no easing off as the Blue & Whites prepare for life back in the Championship.
“We want to continue our momentum and win games,” said Winter. “There may be one or two changes over the next four or five weeks, but no more – we’re not going to get sentimental.
“This will be a difficult game. Plymouth have won the majority of their games and they’ll be disappointed that they haven’t really challenged for the title.
“They haven’t always travelled well, good though they are at home, and they will want to finish strongly to make a point and have a good go next year.
“We went there last year and struggled to get going, but we are not short of confidence, we’re well prepared, we have consistency from last week and we’re looking to put in another strong performance.
“It’s important that we keep focused and working hard for our remaining games.”
In the forwards Nile Dacres comes off the bench to start at blind side against his former club with Brett Daynes switching to No.8 and Luke Narraway going to the replacements.
Third-placed Plymouth have won nine of their ten home games so far, the only blip being a 17-17 draw against Old Elthamians in October, while Cov were 29-14 winners when the two sides met at Butts Park Arena in November.
Kick-off at Brickfields is 3pm.
The Development XV fixture at Richmond Saxons has been cancelled due to a front row shortage. Luc Jeannot, Phil Nilsen, Fred Clark, Nathanael Titchard-jones, Phil Ackuaku and Kai Owen are all injured or unavailable.
Anthony Matoto, who scored 12 tries in 18 appearances on the wing, at centre and in the back row, is leaving Coventry Rugby to return to Spain with his wife, Ariane who is expecting their first child.
“Anthony has made the decision to move back to Spain and concentrate on making a life for his family – he has had a great time here and played a big part in the club’s success, but he’s 32 shortly and has made what he feels is the right off-field decision for his wife and family,” said Winter.
“It’s disappointing, but he goes with all our best wishes for the future – and he will be back for the Hull Ionians game to receive his winner’s medal.”
15 James Stokes (50 caps to date)
14 Rob Knox (95)
13 Heath Stevens (103)
12 Alex Grove (13)
11 Max Trimble (30)
10 Will Maisey (80)
9 Dave Brazier (16)
1 Andy Brown (101)
2 Scott Tolmie (53)
3 Phil Boulton (captain, 47)
4 Tom Jubb (29)
5 George Oram (20)
6 Nile Dacres (23)
7 Jack Preece (22)
8 Brett Daynes (150)
16 Will Priestley (2)
17 Jimmy Litchfield (46)
18 Luke Narraway (21)
19 Ben Palmer (6)
20 Tony Fenner (37)
21 Jack Higgins (3)
22 Cameron Gray (3)
23 James Neal (2)
Tom Little previews the rest of this weekend’s National League One programme
Caldy v Birmingham Moseley
Cambridge v Old Albanian
Darlington Mowden Park v Bishop’s Stortford kick off 14.00
Fylde v Esher
Loughborough Students v Blackheath
Old Elthamians v Hull Ionians 14.30
Plymouth Albion v Coventry Rugby
Rosslyn Park v Ampthill & District
ROUND 26 will, hopefully, see a full schedule of fixtures, and although the emphasis may have shifted from who will be champions to those who will escape relegation, Coventry Rugby will be going to third-placed Plymouth Albion looking to remove the latter’s unbeaten home record.
Fylde, already planning for life outside NL1, will have the chance to bring back home pride as they face an Esher side whose poor away form has seen them slump to 12th spot and only eight points ahead of the final relegation place. These relegation fears could be both a hindrance or motivating factor for Esher in a nervous game for them with Fylde confident they could get a home win.
Another day of reckoning, too, for Cambridge who are at home to Old Albanian. This clash will not be for the faint hearted. Cambridge are only ten points ahead of their visitors, who have recently started winning games. Poor discipline and not taking their chances has seen Cambridge slump to their present position, and this is a game they need to win.
Another side struggling and in the third relegation place, Loughborough Students are at home against fifth-placed Blackheath. Although Students have been picking up points, wins have been few and far between .Students have to win this one, but although Blackheath can be inconsistent away from home they should be too powerful and win a close contest.
Only one place and five points ahead of Students are Hull Ionians, who face a difficult task in visiting seventh-placed Old Elthamians. OEs have settled well into NL1 and, at home, will be firm favourites. However, the greater need to win for Hull Ionians may swing the balance their way, so it could be another close contest.
Rosslyn Park, tenth place and seemingly now safe, are hosts to fourth-placed Ampthill & District. The visitors will be looking for a win which could take them back up to third place, but at home Rosslyn Park have been finding some belated form and may shock their visitors. A close game which could go either way.
Darlington Mowden Park, in second place, may have lost hopes of promotion but can still put a marker down for next season. They will find Bishop’s Stortford a well-balanced unit which has settled well in NL1. Park should have enough experience, especially at home, to win this one.
Caldy side at home to sixth-placed Birmingham Moseley. Effectively already safe in ninth spot, at home Caldy could give their in-form visitors a close run in another game which could go either way.