Experienced forwards Tiki Nayalo and James Tyas return to Coventry Rugby’s starting line-up following injury for tomorrow’s much-anticipated Championship clash with Doncaster Knights (Butts Park Arena, 3pm).
Powerhouse Fijian Nayalo who damaged his knee against Gloucester is selected at no.8 with Matt Kvesic reverting to his more accustomed role on the flank alongside Tom Ball.
Lineout king Tyas sustained a hamstring strain in training prior to Cov’s defeat at Ampthill and he is partnered in the engine room against the unbeaten Knights by Obi Nkwocha.
Cov skipper Jordon Poole is joined in the front row by Elliot Chilvers and Eliot Salt with Sale Sharks and Bath loanees Joe Jones and Arthur Cordwell providing heavyweight support from the bench.
Cov boss Alex Rae has named four further forwards amongst his eight-strong group of replacements based on the abrasive forward pack he expects Doncaster to bring to the BPA.
“We’re anticipating a big forward battle this weekend so have opted to go for the extra forward on the bench in a six-two split,” he said
“It’s great to have James Tyas back – with the experience and composure he brings he has certainly been one of the stand-out players for us this season to date.
“George Smith, Rhys Anstey and Obi Nkwocha are then all pushing each other hard and there’s not much between them but we decided to go with Obi this week based on his recent performances.
“Tiki brings some serious physical presence so it’s great to have him back for Doncaster – whether we get 50, 60 or 80 minutes from him it will be explosive.”
Behind the scrum Cov make two changes, the most eye-catching of which hands summer signing Tobi Wilson who impressed from the bench against Ampthill a first league start for the blue-and-whites in his preferred full back role.
He operates alongside eight-try Ryan Hutler and Jimmy Martin, who will lead the team out to mark his 50th appearance, in a pacy back three.
In addition, powerhouse centre Will Rigg has recovered from the head knock sustained during the win against Caldy to resume his promising midfield partnership with Will Wand.
Rae said Wilson and Rigg both bring plenty of qualities to the starting line-up.
“Tobi is an infectious character who brings lots of energy and enthusiasm,” he said. “Although he hasn’t played as much as he wanted during the early part of the season he has always kept a smile on his face and done what’s right for the team.
“He trains hard and keeps putting his hand up for selection and we think his aerial skills will be really important this week against Doncaster.
“Louis James has also done very well so far this season and there’s going to be a really good tussle between the two of them for the no.15 shirt over the coming weeks.
“Centre is another area where there’s not much between the four players we’ve used and in truth it’s probably the hardest part of selection each week and they all bring different skills.
“The pairing of Riggy and Will Wand went very well in the Premiership Cup games against Saracens, Gloucester and Harlequins and we then have Lucas Titherington to come on from the bench.”
Rae expects a Knights side coached by Steve Boden – who he knows well – to offer a stern test.
“Doncaster are a really good, well-coached team who are big and very physical,” he said.
“Steve has them really well drilled and after bringing in 20 new players in the summer they have a good all-round game with a strong scrum and maul plus some exciting backs.
“We’re expecting a big physical test from them and no doubt they will have spoken a lot about how to try and stop the high-tempo game which they know we will seek to impose upon them.”
Coventry: Wilson; Hutler, Wand, Rigg, Martin; Pellegrini, Chudley; Chilvers, Poole, Salt; Tyas, Nkwocha; Ball, Kvesic, Nayalo.
Replacements: Ma’asi,Cordwell, Jones, Anstey, Smith, Lane, Bartlett, Titherington.
Tickets for Coventry’s next Championship home game against Doncaster on Saturday 18th November are available from: https://www.coventryrugby.co.uk/tickets/matchday-tickets/