COV Kid Rob Knox will lead out his home city side at Butts Park Arena tomorrow to mark his 100th appearance as Coventry Rugby bring down the curtain on their National League One title-winning campaign against Hull Ionians.
Knox, who has scored 53 tries in his five seasons at the club, is named in an unchanged starting XV, while hooker Phil Nilsen and No.8 Luke Narraway both return from injury on the bench.
After losing their 25-game winning home run to Darlington Mowden Park last week, Cov are determined to get back on track and finish the season like the champions they are.
But following two successive defeats they know they will need to step up their performance level against a Hull side for whom a loss will mean certain relegation.
“Last season Hull had been written off with about six weeks to go but then got a bonus point win on the last day to stay up, so they’ve done it before and we need to be switched on to that,” said director of rugby, Rowland Winter.
“But there’s a group of players here who are smarting after last week and who would be embarrassed to lift the league trophy after losing another game at home, and for the first time in a long while we are focusing totally on ourselves and we know what we’ve got to do.”
“We want to pay Hull full respect and understand what they are fighting for, but we want to finish as strongly as possible and put on a good show on what is a special day for the club.
“The passion and the intensity needs to be there, and there is plenty of motivation for the boys to produce it.”
Cov, who ran out 63-20 winners when the two sides met on the opening day of the season back at the beginning of September, will be presented with the league winner’s trophy after the game to cap a day of celebrations at Butts Park.
The programme opens at 12.30pm with on-pitch activities for pupils from the schools in and around Coventry that have been part of the club’s thriving community programme. A Lady Godiva parade follows at 1.45pm before a ceremony marking the handover of the UK City of Culture title from Hull to Coventry, and the game kicks-off at 3pm. Activities for children will run throughout the afternoon with refreshments and bars.
15 James Stokes (54 caps to date)
14 Rob Knox (99)
13 Heath Stevens (107)
12 Alex Grove (17)
11 Max Trimble (33)
10 Will Maisey (84)
9 Pete White (43)
1 Andy Brown (105)
2 Scott Tolmie (57)
3 Phil Boulton (captain, 51)
4 Tom Jubb (33)
5 George Oram (24)
6 Nile Dacres (27)
7 Jack Preece (26)
8 Brett Daynes (153)
16 Phil Nilsen (23)
17 Luc Jeannot (12)
18 Luke Narraway (23)
19 Dave Brazier (19)
20 Tony Fenner (40)
Tom Little previews the rest of this weekend’s National League One programme
Ampthill & District v Birmingham Moseley
Caldy v Bishop’s Stortford
Cambridge v Fylde
Coventry Rugby v Hull Ionians
Loughborough Students v Darlington Mowden Park
Old Elthamians v Esher
Plymouth Albion v Blackheath
Rosslyn Park v Old Albanian
Fixtures still to play –
Saturday May 5 Plymouth Albion v Rosslyn Park
Saturday May 12 Plymouth Albion v Loughborough Students
THE final round of the season Hull Ionians needing a win at champions Coventry Rugby as well as their closest rivals to lose to prolong their survival for at least one more week.
Assured of second place in the table, Darlington Mowden Park travel to Loughborough Students, whose recent form has brought them within one win of survival and have a game in hand over Ionians. DMP have just lowered Coventry’s home record and will look to carry on putting down a marker for next season. However, Students could be surprise winners.
A close contest is expected at Ampthill & District, who take on in-form Birmingham Moseley. A win for the home side will ensure they finish third, their highest ever, whilst a win for Moseley might take them into sixth place. Home advantage just gives Ampthill the edge in what could be a battle between two effective packs.
It’s fourth against fifth as Plymouth Albion host Blackheath. Both sides are effectively safe in their respective positions and both should be challenging for the top next season. It is a matter of consistency for both sides, especially Blackheath, so this game could be a useful signpost to the future. Albion at home should just shade it.
A side that has settled well into NL1, Old Elthamians have already made known their ambitious plans for the future, both off and on the field. They host Esher, who have been very inconsistent this season and OE will be favourites to win to confirm a sixth-place finish.
Caldy entertain Bishop’s Stortford in a game between sides who have both settled well in th division after promotion. BS are safe in eighth place, although having recently come off the pace. Caldy have been picking up plenty of losing bonus points to help their survival, but at home might just edge a close contest.
Cambridge are also safe after last week’s results and are at home to relegated Fylde. With both having the ability to run in plenty of tries without much sign of defence, a high scoring game is expected with the home side having the edge.
Relegated Old Albanian travel to Rosslyn Park, who themselves are not quite safe from filling the final relegation place. This scenario would only happen if Hull Ionians were to beat Coventry, and Rosslyn Park and Loughborough Students fail to get at least one win out of their last two games. A win for Park would settle their nerves and fate.