Local product David Opoku makes his first league start for Coventry Rugby against Hartpury tomorrow (Butts Park Arena, 3pm kick off).
Since first appearing in Cov’s Premiership Rugby Cup clash with Nottingham in September, the pacy winger has impressed his club’s coaching team and as a result is handed his league bow against the Gloucestershire visitors.
Head coach Alex Rae said that Opoku has earned his chance with consistent performances in training.
“David deserves a start on the back of how well he has trained,” he said.
“It’s a really good time for him to come back into the team at home in front of our fans and a great opportunity for him.”
Opoku is joined in the home side’s back three by top try-scorer Ryan Hutler and Evan Mitchell who also had a few minutes in the full back shirt at the end of last week’s defeat at Ealing.
Mitchell has more often been seen at fly half, but is a talented footballer that Rae believes is well suited to the no.15 role.
“Like David, Evan has earned a start by training fantastically well over the last few weeks,” he said.
“Full back isn’t his usual position but it will give us a left foot-right foot balance and also an extra play-maker out there helping Pat (Pellegrini).”
Rae also makes a change in midfield where Will Rigg is partnered by Ollie Betteridge who makes his first start of the season after previously appearing from the bench during the cup competition.
In the pack, Cov’s boss names the same starting front row that performed so strongly during his team’s emphatic home win over Doncaster two weeks ago. This means loan forwards John Stewart and Arthur Cordwell are joined on the bench by exciting Fijian signing Vilikesa Nairau.
Rhys Anstey and Obi Nkwocha swap starting and replacement roles at lock while former Gloucester back-rower Jack Bartlett wears the no.8 shirt in the absence of Tiki Nayalo who is away on British Army duty.
Rae reverts to a conventional five-three split on the bench where Will Wand, Louis James and Will Lane provide cover for the backs.
Rae said Cov’s cup win over tomorrow’s visitors is of limited relevance to the league encounter.
“There’s bits and pieces you can take from it but to be honest a league game is a totally different kettle of fish,” he said.
“They have been coached by the same group for a while now and definitely have their own style but on the day it usually comes down to who is prepared to work harder.
“Hartpury are a decent side who can definitely turn us over if we’re not right on it. On the back of our loss to Ealing we have something to prove back in front of our own supporters who were magnificent against Doncaster.”
Coventry: Mitchell; Hutler, Rigg, Betteridge, Opoku; Pellegrini, Chudley; Chilvers, Poole, Salt; Tyas, Anstey; Ball, Kvesic, Bartlett.
Replacements: Stewart, Cordwell, Nairau, Nkwocha, Ryan, Lane, Wand, James.
Tickets for Coventry’s Championship home game against Hartpury on Saturday December 2nd are available from: https://www.coventryrugby.co.uk/tickets/matchday-tickets/