DIRECTOR of rugby Rowland Winter has named a squad showing three changes for tomorrow’s game against Esher at Butts Park Arena.
Back row Eoghan Grace and centre Cliffie Hodgson are ruled out after picking up injuries at Hartpury College, while Owain James – who also came off last week – is unavailable.
Grace is set to undergo surgery tomorrow on a torn pectoralis tendon which is likely to rule him out for the rest of the season, and all at Coventry wish him a full and swift recovery.
Sam Harry (pictured) replaces Grace at open side flanker, while Tom Wheatcroft returns at centre for Hodgson, who had ten stitches inserted in a gashed knee, and Max Trimble starts on the wing after coming off the bench when James suffered a thumb injury.
Rob Knox returns to action on the bench, while in the pack Tom Jubb, Andy Brown and Matt Price all start with Tom Poole, Jimmy Litchfield and Scott Tolmie going to the bench on rotation. Jubb lines up in the second row alongside Josh Peters, who has recovered from the knock that forced him off at Hartpury.
After seeing an unbeaten run of five games ended at Hartpury last week, Cov have added incentive to get back to winning ways as they attempt to overturn a 34-14 defeat at Esher in October.
“We’ve talked a lot this season about having pride in our performance levels, and Esher was definitely not one for us to shout about,” said Winter. “We want to show Esher what this Coventry squad is really about and also to get momentum back after last week.
“We are quite proud of our home form, we’ve only lost to Hartpury here and have had some good performances, particularly against Blackheath two weeks ago when we completely turned round a poor result down there from the first weeks of the season. Esher tomorrow offers us an opportunity to do the same.”
There will be a familiar face to Cov fans in the opposition camp tomorrow with hooker Devlin Hope, who made 22 appearances for the Blue & Whites last season, set to play his second game for Esher after joining them from London Scottish.
Meanwhile, second row Rob Conquest and winger Dan Rundle have both left Cov’s playing squad ahead of the proposed announcement of two new signings next week.
Conquest, who has been restricted to four appearances this season, has left by mutual agreement to rejoin his former club Darlington Mowden Park, while Rundle, who has been playing on loan at Stourbridge, has also been released while continuing to work with the club’s coaching community team.
“We thank both Rob and Dan for their commitment and hard work for the club, and we wish them well for the future,” said Winter. “Dan’s a great coach, the schools he works with love him, and he remains an important member of the community team.”
Kick-off us 3pm, and live post-match entertainment will be provided by Flat Badger.
COVENTRY: 15 James Stokes, 14 Corey Hircock, 13 Will Maisey, 12 Tom Wheatcroft, 11 Max Trimble, 10 Tony Fenner, 9 Pete White, 1 Andy Brown, 2 Matt Price, 3 Phil Boulton (captain), 4 Tom Jubb, 5 Josh Peters, 6 Brett Daynes, 7 Sam Harry, 8 Darrel Dyer.
Replacements: 16 Scott Tolmie, 17 Jimmy Litchfield, 18 Tom Poole, 19 Rhodri Adamson, 20 Rob Knox.
Tom Little looks at the rest of the weekend’s National League One programme.
Ampthill & District v Macclesfield kick off 14-15pm
Blaydon v Blackheath 14-00
Cambridge v Birmingham Moseley 14-00
Coventry Rugby v Esher
Hull Ionians v Hartpury College 14-00
Old Albanian v Darlington Mowden Park
Plymouth Albion v Fylde
Rosslyn Park v Loughborough Students
Week 20 marks the two-thirds point of the National League One season with the top seven sides all meeting lower table opponents and, arguably, no surprises expected although in this league there can always be one or two shock results.
Runaway leaders Hartpury College travel to 14th-placed Hull Ionians with surely only one result expected. The home side, who ran hosts Blackheath close last weekend, will feel that at home they may be able to get something out of this game, but with Hartpury so much ahead of the rest of the league in quality there should only be one winner and another bonus point for the leaders, which will leave Hull Ionians further in trouble at the wrong end of the table.
It’s another top versus bottom affair at second-placed Ampthill & District, who entertain a Macclesfield side adrift at the foot of the table and 19 points from safety. Macc suffered a catastrophic home loss last week against fellow strugglers Blaydon and can’t be confident about visiting an in-form Ampthill, the first team to lower the home colours of Moseley. Surely only one winner here.
Another top v bottom game is at third-placed Plymouth Albion who take on Fylde in 13th. Albion are now level on points with Ampthill and although they struggled last week to overcome a resilient Old Albanian side, they should be far too powerful at home to defeat a team whose away form is woeful. Albion will be striving for the bonus point win to keep pressure on Ampthill.
Blackheath, now up to fourth, travel the long distance to the north east to face 15th-placed Blaydon. The home side are still 12 points from safety despite last week’s crucial win at Macclesfield, but although their form has been poor – even at home – they have the ability to raise their game and give Blackheath a scare. Blackheath themselves nearly came up short against Hull Ionians so cannot take this game too lightly. A close game which could go either way with Blaydon needing the win to stand any chance of escaping the drop.
Cambridge, in 11th place and still only 10 points above the drop zone, face a Birmingham Moseley side now back in fifth place following last week’s home defeat by Ampthill. Cambridge can always be relied on to score plenty of tries but have a poor defensive record, especially in the second half. Could be a tight game but Moseley should have enough firepower up front to get the win.
An intriguing game is in prospect at Rosslyn Park who take on Loughborough Students, sixth against eighth with Park on a winning streak which has seen them reach their highest position of the season and now only nine points behind Ampthill in second. Yet the Students have shown that they can compete with most in the league and cannot be written off, so a close game could be on the cards, but Park should be able to consolidate their table position
The other game is a mid-table clash between Old Albanian and Darlington Mowden Park. Both will be smarting from narrow losses last week and will be looking to get back on a winning way, so another close tussle is expected with home advantage just swinging it.