DELAYED by last week’s postponement, prop forward Andy Brown now has the added bonus of reaching 100 appearances for Coventry Rugby in front of his home supporters when he leads out the side for tomorrow’s game against Old Elthamians at Butts Park Arena.
Back row Paddy Ryan makes his full debut with the only changes from the side selected for last week’s visit to Caldy seeing Luc Jeannot return from injury at tight head prop, with Phil Boulton going to the bench, and second row Nile Dacres starting in a change of roles with George Oram.
The side us captained by centre Heath Stevens.
Cov need four wins from their seven remaining games to guarantee the National League One title, and promotion, and with a 26-point advantage over nearest rivals Darlington Mowden Park could reach their target earlier with bonus points.
The first objective, however, will be to win tomorrow’s game against a side lying sixth in the table in their first season at this level and who pushed Cov all the way in their first meeting in November before going down 20-16.
“They’re a team that has improved and developed each month as they’ve played, and they demonstrated how tough they are at their place when we only just beat them,” said director of rugby, Rowland Winter.
“Following their progress through the leagues it’s no surprise to me that they are doing so well in their first year in National One, and as a well-resourced club with the squad and coaches they have and Gavin Lach as director of rugby, I think they’re capable of being promotion candidates next season.
“We’re going into the game on the back of two fabulous performances against Cambridge and Darlington, which piles the pressure on the players because they’ve shown the standards and capabilities they have got and now it’s important to back that up and prove they are worthy of the position they are in.
“They need to keep their feet on the ground, focus, and do it again tomorrow.”
Kick-off is 3pm, and Soul Junction will be performing live in the clubhouse post-match.
Coventry Development play Old Elthamians 2nd in a Zoo Sports Shield fixture at King Henry VIII School Playing Fields, Stonebridge Highway, kick-off 2.15pm.
Fly-half Tony Fenner captains the side.
Said Winter: “We are very grateful to the school for the use of their facility again and their support.
“We hope this is the start of a strong, developing partnership and we are looking forward to supporting them with their rugby teams and coaching.”
15 James Stokes (48 caps to date)
14 Rob Knox (93)
13 Heath Stevens (101)
12 Sam Tuitupou (13)
11 Max Trimble (28)
10 Will Maisey (78)
9 Pete White (38)
1 Andy Brown (99)
2 Scott Tolmie (51)
3 Luc Jeannot (10)
4 Nile Dacres (21)
5 Tom Jubb (27)
6 Paddy Ryan (1)
7 Jack Preece (20)
8 Brett Daynes (148)
16 Phil Nilsen (22)
17 Phil Boulton (45)
18 George Oram (18)
19 Dave Brazier (14)
20 Alex Grove (11)
Coventry Development: 15 Max Titchener, 14 Victory Chamwada, 13 Jamal Hamilton, 12 Anthony Matoto, 11 James Neal, 10 Tony Fenner (captain), 9 Ben Palmer, 1 Jack Higgins, 2 Will Priestley, 3 Jimmy Litchfield, 4 Kailus Hutchinson, 5 Cameron Gray, 6 Myles Hibbs, 7 Sam McNulty, 8 Tom Price. Replacements: 16 Tarik Tin, 17 Kai Owen, 18 Matt Price, 19 Mike Ryan, 20 Connor Adams, 21 Sam Payne.
Tom Little previews the rest of this weekend’s National League One programme
Ampthill & District v Plymouth Albion
Birmingham Moseley v Cambridge
Blackheath v Fylde
Coventry Rugby v Old Elthamians
Esher v Bishop’s Stortford
Hull Ionians v Caldy
Old Albanian v Loughborough Students
Rosslyn Park v Darlington Mowden Park
AFTER last week’s snow-out, hopefully round 25 will see a full programme of fixtures. Whilst Coventry Rugby will be at home to Old Elthamians, their nearest rivals Darlington Mowden Park and Plymouth Albion have away fixtures. At the other end of the table there are crucial home games for Hull Ionians and Old Albanian, the results of which may go a long way to decide who fills two of the three relegation spots.
Rosslyn Park, in tenth place and eight points above the relegation zone, have second-placed Darlington Mowden Park as their visitors. DMP cannot afford to lose another game in their chase to the top and should be too strong for a misfiring home side, who themselves cannot afford a loss which nay bring them closer to the danger zone. A nervous afternoon for both sides is in prospect.
Plymouth Albion, in third spot, face a tricky visit to the team immediately below them, Ampthill & District. Another loss for Albion would surely leave them too much to do to catch Coventry. Both sides are on the same match points, although Albion have two games in hand. At home Ampthill can be a handful with their pack, but Albion should just have the edge in what could be a close encounter.
Fifth-placed Blackheath, who are only four points ahead of Old Elthamians, are at home to bottom club Fylde. The visitors are now only one defeat away from certain relegation and Blackheath should be more than capable of inflicting a terminal defeat on Fylde.
Birmingham Moseley, in seventh place, managed to beat both the weather and Loughborough Students last week and are now back at a balmy Billesley Common to face Cambridge who, although in 12th spot, are only seven points above the relegation zone. A win for Moseley could take them up to sixth, and another loss for Cambridge could see them too close to the edge. The home side will be favourites for this one.
Another side too close to the danger zone for comfort is Esher, who have eighth-place Bishop’s Stortford as their visitors. Esher have been inconsistent but at home can raise their game, so they do stand a chance to sneak this one and give themselves breathing space.
Hull Ionians are now back in the third relegation spot are are at home to Caldy side, who seem safe in their first season in NL1. Both sides have solid packs, but Ionians’ need for a win may give them the slight edge at home to secure the required result. Another close and edgy game is in prospect.
One of the most important games of the season in the bottom area of the table sees 15th-placed Old Albanian entertain Loughborough Students. Even when losing Students have been picking up bonus points which have taken them out of the relegation places, although on the same points as Hull Ionians. The home side are in good form and a series of wins has brought them to within seven points of safety. An important game for both sides which could go to OA by a narrow margin.