Newly capped Tongan international fly half Pat Pellegrini returns to Coventry Rugby’s starting line-up for tomorrow’s cup clash with Saracens (Butts Park Arena, 4pm).
Following an outstanding 2022/23 Championship season during which he played a key role in his club’s third-place league finish, the exciting no.10 spent much of his summer in Tonga’s World Cup training camp.
Having therefore missed both of his club’s pre-season outings, the Australian-born 23-year-old now makes his return in Cov’s first round of Premiership Rugby Cup action against English rugby’s reigning champions.
Head Coach Alex Rae names Pellegrini outside influential scrum half Will Chudley in a half-back axis which last season proved so pivotal to the blue-and-whites’ ability to break down defences.
There are also few surprises in the remainder of the back division where Will Wand who scored twice against Birmingham Moseley in Cov’s final pre-season outing gets the nod to partner powerhouse Will Rigg in midfield, while summer signing Ryan Hutler, makes his competitive debut for his new club on the right wing.
Up front Rae has opted to retain the starting eight that performed so well at Billesley Common. This means that four summer signings feature with on-loan lock Rhys Anstey, young prop Eliot Salt, experienced former Worcester and Gloucester flanker Matt Kvesic and new USA international Paddy Ryan all named in the run-on team.
Young half-backs Will Lane and Evan Mitchell join six forwards on the bench.
Cov’s boss said his squad is counting down the minutes until the first whistle sounds on Saturday.
“We’ve had one eye on this game against Sarries since the pools were announced and we found out who our first home game was against,” he said.
“As the week has progressed you can feel the excitement building within the squad. It sounds like there’s going to be a big crowd and those are the occasions you want to be involved with.
“As a coach or player you want to test yourself against the best and Saturday gives us the chance to do that.”
Coventry Rugby: James; Hutler, Wand, Rigg, Martin; Pellegrini, Chudley; Trinder ©, Ma’asi, Salt; Tyas, Anstey; Ryan, Kvesic, Nayalo.
Replacements: Poole, Chilvers, Andrews, Smith, Bartlett, Lane, Mitchell, Ball.
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