COVENTRY welcome back scrum-half Sam Grasso (pictured) for tomorrow’s trip to Fylde.
Injured after starting the first two league games of the season, the 25-year-old Australian has been chomping at the bit for the last few weeks and gets his chance with Pete White given an afternoon on the bench after starting the last ten games.
Re-signed centre Heath Stevens starts his second spell at the club on the bench in a 20-strong squad showing just one other change from the one that took the field in last week’s 35-27 win over Esher – Jake Byrne named among the replacements in place of hooker Matt Price.
Rob Knox comes off the bench to start on the wing at the expense of Max Trimble.
“Sam is raring to go and we’re looking forward to getting him involved again,” said director of rugby, Rowand Winter. “Pete didn’t have a pre-season and it is starting to show, he needs a rest and also to be fresh if he is selected to play for England Counties later this month.
“Jake is developing really well and we want to give him the opportunity of some game time.
“Fylde are a good side at home and it will be a tough game, but we are confident that we can get a result.
“We need to put in a good performance after last week when we were below our best, and if we do what we are capable of and concentrate, we’ll be fine.”
Kick-off is 3pm.
COVENTRY: 15 James Stokes, 14 Corey Hircock, 13 Will Maisey, 12 Tom Wheatcroft, 11 Rob Knox, 10 Tony Fenner, 9 Sam Grasso, 1 Andy Brown, 2 Scott Tolmie, 3 Phil Boulton (captain), 4 Tom Jubb, 5 Josh Peters, 6 Brett Daynes, 7 Sam Harry, 8 Darrel Dyer.
Replacements: 16 Jake Byrne, 17 Jimmy Litchfield, 18 Tom Poole, 19 Pete White, 20 Heath Stevens.
Tom Little looks at the rest of the weekend’s National League One programme.
Birmingham Moseley v Rosslyn Park
Blackheath v Ampthill & District
Darlington Mowden Park v Plymouth Albion
Esher v Hull Ionians
Fylde v Coventry Rugby
Hartpury College v Blaydon kick off 14.30
Loughborough Students v Old Albanian 14.00
Macclesfield v Cambridge
Week 21 marks the start of the final third of the season with four of the top six sides meeting. The other end of the table, with only two sides now being relegated and Blaydon winning last week, sees more pressure mounting on the five sides trying to avoid the final place.
Hartpury College are back at home to face 15th-placed Blaydon and looking for their 21st consecutive victory to thus go past 100 match points for the season. Blaydon gave themselves a lift last week by beating Blackheath, but more importantly putting them equal on points with Hull Ionians. However, with only one away win in two seasons, Blaydon will travel not in hope but in damage limitation mode as they are not expected to gain anything from this match.
An interesting game is in prospect when second-placed Ampthill & District visit fifth-placed Blackheath. The home side have struggled of late, especially away, but back at home they should be a different proposition. Ampthill have surprised many with their impressive pack and if they can restrict Blackheath to scraps, then they stand a chance of a crucial away victory to cement their league position.
Third-placed Plymouth Albion, who had a close win over Fylde last week, are on their travels to the north east to face a resurgent Darlington Mowden Park side. Before what is expected to be the largest league crowd of the day, DMP at home could cause a surprise to dent Albion’s battle for the runner-up place. If the visitors can get their effective driving maul going they should win, but with Park’s confidence now building it could be close run contest.
An intriguing contest is also in prospect between Birmingham Moseley in fourth place and their visitors, Rosslyn Park, in sixth. Park are in impressive form and are now only three points behind Moseley. However Moseley, have only lost one game at home and despite ramifications off the field, they should be favourites. Park have been using their driving maul to good effect and whether the home side has the ability to counteract this remains to be seen. A win for Rosslyn Park would see them overtake Moseley in the table.
Both Loughborough Students and their visitors Old Albanian will have been disappointed by last weekend’s narrow defeats against higher level opponents, so a close contest is expected as both sides battle to either keep in or achieve a top half finish. The Students, at home, should win, allowing them to consolidate their eighth spot in the league.
Bottom side Macclesfield are still 12 points from safety and entertain Cambridge who themselves are too close to the danger zone for comfort. Macclesfield do stand a chance to sneak this one on their own ground, but Cambridge have the ability to score plenty of tries even if their defence is suspect. A close and nervous game is on the cards, with surely another home loss sealing Macclesfield’s fate, while defeat for Cambridge would bring them closer to the drop zone.
Two other teams too close to the relegation zone meet at Esher where Hull Ionians are the visitors. Esher will feel aggrieved at losing at Coventry but should be confident enough at home to defeat Ionians who, even when playing well, are finding it difficult to close games out. Esher are only nine points ahead of Ionians, who themselves are equal on points with Blaydon in 15th spot. Another nervous afternoon is in store for both in an important fixture.