COVENTRY RUGBY are forced into changes for tomorrow’s trip to third-placed Ampthill with scrum-half Dave Brazier (knee) and No.8 Luke Narraway (toe) both ruled out by injury and winger Max Trimble unavailable.
Brett Daynes is recalled in the back row for Narraway, while Pete White and Tony Fenner come off the bench to start and Alex Grove, who dislocated a finger in last week’s win over Rosslyn Park but has been passed fit, moves out to the wing.
Nile Dacres moves into the back row with Tom Jubb returning to the second row from the bench which includes Ben Palmer and Academy pair Kailus Hutchinson, who made a promising debut last week, and Kwaku Asiedu.
Cov, who are looking for their first victory at Dillingham Park in three visits, romped to a 63-14 win when the two sides met at Butts Park Arena in December, but director of rugby Rowland Winter says that result can be dismissed when looking at tomorrow’s game.
“We have to try to ignore what happened earlier in the season,” said Winter.
“Last year we did very well against them at home, we moved the ball around and played a direct game, but when we went away they showed how comfortable they are on their own patch and were stronger than us.
“They have a very good and well-coached squad, have a well-resourced set-up, and play a physical game which we will need to match and beat as our first job.
“If we can do that and play at a sharp tempo, then we stand a good chance, but they have been looking more like the old Ampthill of late and are in good form so it is a real challenge for us and one we are looking forward to.”
Kick-off is 3pm.
Coventry Development’s Zoo Sports Shield fixture at Ampthill 2nd has been cancelled because of a long list of injured or unavailable players which includes Phil Nilsen, Sam Tuitupou, Latu Makaafi, Narraway, Brazier, Trimble, Nathanael Titchard-jones, Ravai Fatiaki, Luc Jeannot, Olly Povoas, Cameron Gray and Victory Chamwada.
15 James Stokes (52 caps to date)
14 Rob Knox (97)
13 Heath Stevens (105)
12 Tony Fenner (39)
11 Alex Grove (15)
10 Will Maisey (82)
9 Pete White (41)
1 Andy Brown (103)
2 Scott Tolmie (55)
3 Phil Boulton (captain, 49)
4 Tom Jubb (31)
5 George Oram (22)
6 Nile Dacres (25)
7 Jack Preece (24)
8 Brett Daynes (151)
16 Will Priestley (3)
17 Jimmy Litchfield (48)
18 Kailus Hutchinson (1)
19 Ben Palmer (6)
20 Kwaku Asiedu (2)
Tom Little previews the rest of this weekend’s National League One programme
Ampthill & District v Coventry Rugby
Caldy v Blackheath
Cambridge v Esher
Darlington Mowden Park v Fylde kick off 2pm
Loughborough Students v Bishop’s Stortford
Old Elthamians v Old Albanian
Plymouth Albion v Birmingham Moseley
Rosslyn Park v Hull Ionians
ROUND 28 sees a difficult game for champions Coventry Rugby at Ampthill & District, who will have the incentive of aiming for their highest-ever finish in NL1.
Darlington Mowden Park, nine points ahead of Ampthill in second place, have the easier task at home to bottom side Fylde, who will be looking for only their fourth win of the season. Fylde are not expected to get anything out of this game.
Blackheath, up to fourth spot after last week, are away at Caldy, who had a heavy loss away to a strengthened Old Albanian side. This could be a close affair as Caldy still require a win to make sure of their NL1 status.
Now in fifth place, Plymouth Albion, who suffered a surprise loss at Hull Ionians, are back at home to face a Birmingham Moseley side who themselves suffered an unexpected home defeat. Both sides have strong packs, but Moseley are renowned for their slow starts and Albion will be hoping that the contest will be over by half-time. Another close one, but Albion will be favourites.
The remaining four games involve six sides who could still fill the remaining two relegation places, so expect a nervous and nail-biting afternoon.
Form side Old Albanian are looking for their fifth win in six, despite still being in 15th place. They are now only seven points from safety so another win for them could be crucial. However, away at Old Elthamians they will face a resilient and accomplished side capable of beating even augmented visitors.
Loughborough Students, at home to Bishop’s Stortford, are only four points from safety and with a game in hand over their rivals, especially Hull Ionians. The visitors have done well so far in NL1 and, currently seventh, are expected to edge this one to put more pressure on Students.
Two sides still too close to the danger zone for complete comfort, Cambridge and Esher meet at the former’s ground. Both suffered losses last week and, with Esher three points behind their hosts, this is a game which both sides need to win to make sure of survival. It could also be a close one with Cambridge slight home favourites.
Hull Ionians, in 13th, travel to Rosslyn Park who are only four points ahead of them, albeit with a game in hand. Park put up an excellent display in a narrow defeat at Coventry last week, whilst Ionians were putting in their best display of the season in beating Plymouth. It could be another close one with Park slight favourites for a win which would make them safe but heap more pressure on their visitors.