ALL Black centre Sam Tuitupou will make his league bow for Coventry in tomorrow’s eagerly-anticipated derby clash with Birmingham Moseley at Butts Park Arena.
Tuitupou (pictured) sat out last week’s win at Hull Ionians on the opening day of the National League One season, but steps up to partner Heath Stevens in midfield with Alex Grove moving out to the wing at the expense of Kwaku Asiedu.
The half-back pairing that finished last week’s game, Will Maisey and Dave Brazier start this time out with fly-half Ben Palmer, another summer recruit, coming in to the squad in place of injured Tony Fenner for his first appearance on the bench alongside scrum-half Pete White, who has recovered from a dead leg.
The pack and forward replacements are unchanged for a fixture which carries close to a century and a half of local history.
“There’s no better way to kick off our home season and to say we are excited is really an understatement,” said Cov’s director of rugby, Rowland Winter. “Both our meetings last season were proper derby games in every sense.
“We had a good win last week, but Moseley present a different threat to Hull and will be physical and far more direct. They are definitely one of the teams, if not the team, to beat in this division after their pre-season win over Worcester.
“They have a big, strong pack and it will take a big effort from us to contain them, but we have prepared well and there is also the home factor. It feels a long time since we were at home in a league game and we have new players who haven’t experienced it before and how our supporters can lift the performance.
“It’s a great opportunity not only to show off the game of rugby but also for the club to showcase what we have got.”
Added Winter: “Our pack did very well last week and it is important to have continuity going into a big game.
“Outside we are going with our most experienced back line and it has looked good in training. Kwaku is unlucky, but he will have plenty of opportunities for game time during the season.
“Last week we felt that Heath and Alex was our best centre combination for Hull, while this week we wanted to involve Sam – we will be making sure we have the right combinations each week depending on the game.”
Fenner will be out for up to ten weeks after suffering broken ribs at Hull. Winger Max Trimble faces another five weeks on the sidelines with a broken metatarsal, while Tom Poole is due to see a consultant today regarding his neck injury and Kailus Hutchinson is going through the appropriate concussion protocol with a view to a return to training in the next two weeks. Winger Anthony Matoto is in Spain for family reasons and will return at the start of next week to resume training.
Kick-off tomorrow is 3pm, and live post-match entertainment in the Arena Bar will be provided by Danny and Friends.
COVENTRY: 15 James Stokes, 14 Alex Grove, 13 Heath Stevens, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Rob Knox, 10 Will Maisey, 9 Dave Brazier, 1 Jimmy Litchfield, 2 Phil Nilsen, 3 Phil Boulton (captain), 4 Nile Dacres, 5 George Oram, 6 Latu Makaafi, 7 Jack Preece, 8 Luke Narraway.
Replacements: 16 Scott Tolmie, 17 Andy Brown, 18 Brett Daynes, Pete White, 20 Ben Palmer. Match day reserves: 21 Harry Morley, 22 Olly Povoas, 23 Waita Setu, 24 Cliffie Hodgson, 25 Kwaku Asiedu.
Tom Little previews the rest of this weekend’s National League One programme
All 3pm kick-off
Ampthill & District v Old Albanian
Caldy v Fylde
Cambridge v Loughborough Students
Coventry Rugby v Birmingham Moseley
Hull Ionians v Darlington Mowden Park
Old Elthamians v Bishops Stortford
Plymouth Albion v Esher
Rosslyn Park v Blackheath
AFTER last week’s poor attendance figures there should be at least two four-figure crowds, at Coventry and PlymouthAlbion, especially as six of the ties could loosely be described as local derbies. There are high-profile games at Coventry, Plymouth and Rosslyn Park involving five of the sides that won last week.
Rosslyn Park are at home to Blackheath. Both sides commenced their season with bonus-point wins, although it could be said that Blackheath had the more difficult of games. Certainly this is an important game for both sides as another win for Park would enhance their promotion credentials, whilst some impressive recruitment at Blackheath suggests they will be a force to reckon with. Home advantage might just sway it.
A battle of the two promoted sides from National Two South takes place at Old Elthamians who entertain Bishop’s Stortford. The sides had contrasting results last week, although OE had the more difficult fixture away at Esher who starved them of possession. A closer contest is in prospect this week and may go with home advantage, although the Blues showed enough skill and confidence last week to suggest they could win.
After being narrowly beaten at Blackheath, Plymouth Albion are at home against another London side, Esher. Another hard-fought contest is expected as they appear to have well-matched packs and the skills outside to score tries. Esher appear to have recruited marginally better than their hosts and may cause an upset, although home advantage may just tip it.
The North East derby between Hull Ionians and Darlington Mowden Park may be a lot closer than last week’s results suggest. Ionians played well in the first half against Coventry before tiredness set in and should not expect the same level of intensity from their visitors. Certainly the home side cannot be written off and may squeeze an important win.
The East Midlands derby between Cambridge and Loughborough Students also promises to be a close affair. Cambridge came away from Fylde with an excellent win, helped in no small way by a much-improved defensive display. Loughborough Students, with a much-changed side, found it difficult to get enough possession at DMP and so may find it a test to gain parity at Cambridge. However, the Students have enough skill and ability to shock teams so the game could be close but home advantage may just be the key factor.
Ampthill & District, after their important draw at Moseley, are at home against a rather shell-shocked Old Albanian side. Losing some key players pre-season and the recruitment of largely unknown quantities have left OA in a difficult position and until they are supplemented by Saracens they may struggle to get results. Only one winner in this contest I fear.
The remaining game brings together two sides who had disappointing losses last week as Fylde travel the short distance to Caldy. Fylde have had a traumatic pre-season with the loss of experienced players, along with their head coach and will have to rely on some youngsters, at least initially. Promoted as Two North champions, Caldy recruited some experienced players but their loss at Bishops Stortford was a shock to their system. A close game is in prospect and might go the way of the visitors.