COVENTRY Rugby are forced to make changes to their squad for tomorrow’s trip to Caldy, where a bonus-point win will see the Blue & Whites crowned National League One champions.
Centre Sam Tuitupou and hooker Phil Nilsen are ruled out by, respectively, a broken leg and thumb after last week’s win over Old Elthamians, while prop Luc Jeannot is also missing with strained thumb ligaments.
Alex Grove replaces Tuitupou in the starting line-up with Tony Fenner coming back on to the bench where Development Academy hooker Will Priestley, for the first time this season, and prop Jimmy Litchfield come in.
Luke Narraway returns at No.8 after missing two games, Brett Daynes – making his 150th league appearance for Cov – going to blind side flanker at the expense of Paddy Ryan, and George Oram starts in the second row on rotation with Nile Dacres who moves to the bench.
Tuitupou was injured six minutes into last week’s game, but played on for another eight before leaving the field. “He said he could feel the bone grinding so thought he’d better come off,” said director of rugby, Rowland Winter. “It’s a straight fracture and an eight-week injury, while Phil will be out for five to six weeks and Luc’s injury will be assessed weekly.”
There is an understandable air of expectancy around the club with a return to the Championship, after eight seasons away, now within touching distance, but Winter and his coaching team have been stressing the need to stay focused and make sure the job gets done properly.
“We’re building the club for the Championship and we’ve been doing that for the last two years,” said Winter. “We are adopting the same approach to the game as we have for any other.
“Saturday gives us an opportunity to reach our goal of promotion, but it’s only the first step along the way for us. We’ve got to keep going as we have all season and continuing to develop for the future.
“Good preparation, a good performance, and the score will take care of itself – that’s how we have to look at it and we have to keep on hitting the standards we have set ourselves to the end.”
Cov had to work hard for a 38-14 win when the two sides met at Butts Park Arena in early November.
Said Winter: “Caldy is a great club, they’ve had a really good first season in the league, and hopefully it will be a good day out for our supporters – especially if we do get the performance right.
“It will be great to have as many there as are able to make the trip.”
Kick-off is 3pm.
Back row forwards Olly Povoas and Waita Setu are both now back in full training, while centre Isaac McNulty is recovering after reconstructive shoulder surgery.
15 James Stokes (49 caps to date)
14 Rob Knox (94)
13 Heath Stevens (102)
12 Alex Grove (12)
11 Max Trimble (29)
10 Will Maisey (79)
9 Pete White (39)
1 Andy Brown (100)
2 Scott Tolmie (52)
3 Phil Boulton (captain, 46)
4 Tom Jubb (28)
5 George Oram (19)
6 Brett Daynes (149)
7 Jack Preece (21)
8 Luke Narraway (20)
16 Will Priestley (1)
17 Jimmy Litchfield (45)
18 Nile Dacres (22)
19 Dave Brazier (15)
20 Tony Fenner (36)
Tom Little looks at the rest of the weekend fixtures
Caldy v Coventry Rugby
Cambridge v Darlington Mowden Park kick off 14.00
Plymouth Albion v Bishop’s Stortford 13.00
THIS catch-up week has only three games but will impact heavily on the top of the table.
Coventry’s closest challengers, Darlington Mowden Park travel to Cambridge where nothing short of a bonus point win is required. On the other hand, Cambridge – back in 11th place – are too close to the relegation zone, being only eight points ahead, and cannot let this game slip. A difficult and nervous afternoon is in prospect, the result of which could go either way, but Cambridge will be slight underdogs.
Plymouth Albion, now in fourth place, have Bishop’s Stortford as their visitors. BS have done well in their first season in NL1 and last week defeated Esher away. However, at home Albion will be a different proposition and should be firm favourites to win, although not necessarily with the bonus point necessary to keep their slim title chances alive.