THE match-day squad to face Rosslyn Park in tomorrow’s Harry Walker Tribute Game at Butts Park Arena shows just one enforced change.
Tom Howe – whose double in the 36-27 win at Cambridge last week took him to the top of Cov’s try-scoring list for the season – has been recalled by parent club Wasps for this week, so James Stokes moves out to the wing with Cliffie Hodgson coming into the side at full-back and replaced on the bench by Tom Wheatcroft (pictured).
Scrum-half Pete White and hooker Matt Price start the game in a rotational change of roles with Sam Grasso and Scott Tolmie, who go on to the bench. Back row Darrel Dyer, who withdrew through illness last week and was replaced on the bench by Sam Harry, is still recovering and again sits out the game.
Victory for Cov, who are on a winning run of four, would see them move above their visitors into fifth place in the National League One table, but they were beaten 33-15 when the sides met in London in November.
“We’re really looking forward to it – it’s a huge test,” said director of rugby, Rowland Winter. “Rosslyn Park are one of the form teams in the league, probably only Hartpury College have been in better form in recent weeks, and they beat us convincingly earlier in the season.
“We will need to be at the top of our game to win it, and we have to improve our all-round game from last week when we didn’t give ourselves top marks for our performance.
“We also have to step up the physicality and collision side Rosslyn Park will bring.
“But we’ve got a home record we are proud of and will be confident in front of our own supporters.”
The game has been named in honour of Cov legend Harry Walker who, at the age of 102, is England’s oldest surviving international, and he will be made an honorary member of Coventry Rugby Supporters Club in a presentation, conducted by club president Peter Rossborough, on the pitch after the game.
In addition, Charterhouse Beavers are playing an in-house tag tournament through the morning with the final timed for 12.15pm and a presentation to the winning team at half-time in the main game, and at 1.15pm Barkers Butts Under-14s play touring Preston Grasshoppers.
Kick-off against Rosslyn Park is 3pm, and The Original Members will provide live post-match entertainment in the clubhouse.
COVENTRY: 15 Cliffie Hodgson, 14 James Stokes, 13 Heath Stevens, 12 Rob Knox, 11 Max Trimble, 10 Will Maisey, 9 Pete White, 1 Jimmy Litchfield, 2 Matt Price, 3 Phil Boulton (captain), 4 Tom Jubb, 5 Tom Poole, 6 Brett Daynes, 7 Olly Povoas, 8 Freddie Tuilagi.
Replacements: 16 Scott Tolmie, 17 Jake Byrne, 18 Sam Harry, 19 Sam Grasso, 20 Tom Wheatcroft.
Tom Little looks at the rest of the weekend’s National League One programme.
Blackheath v Birmingham Moseley
Blaydon v Ampthill & District kick off 14.30pm
Coventry Rugby v Rosslyn Park
Esher v Darlington Mowden Park
Fylde v Old Albanian
Hartpury RFC v Loughborough Students kick off 14.30pm
Hull Ionians v Cambridge
Macclesfield v Plymouth Albion
Four games to go with the two relegation places still to be filled, in reality between Macclesfield, Hull Ionians and Blaydon. The bottom three are all at home but realistically only Hull Ionians – against Cambridge – offers much hope for home solace.
Macclesfield, who are bottom of the table, have the unenviable task of hosting second-placed Plymouth Albion. Second only to Hartpury in points difference and defensive record, Albion will be firm favourites to take this one and at the same time relegate their hosts.
Hull Ionians, in 15th and only two points behind Blaydon, have Cambridge as their visitors. Although back in 12th place Cambridge, with their brand of running rugby, have had some close losses and could easily win this encounter. However, at home Ionians also have some ability and need to get something out of this game to keep their season alive. A game that is too close to call.
Hoping for a Hull Ionians defeat will be 14th-placed Blaydon, who will have their own hands full in trying to deal with their visitors, third-placed Ampthill & District. A crucial game for the home side where even a losing bonus point would be a success, but Ampthill must be firm favourites to win heavily.
What used to be known erroneously as a Students game sees champions Hartpury RFC at home to Loughborough Students. Hartpury have been the most consistent team throughout the season, whilst the Students have not always been at their best. Could be a tasty affair with plenty to prove, but with their blend of experience, street nous and young talent Hartpury should be able to continue their unbeaten record.
Two sides who have recently struggled with their form, Blackheath and Birmingham Moseley meet in London. Another difficult game to predict with Moseley having a number of injured backs, whilst Blackheath have not been consistent. Blackheath at home will be slight favourites, but Moseley could spring a surprise, bringing them within sight of third place.
Esher, after struggling for most of the season, made themselves safe with a big away win at Old Albanian and are now back at home to face Darlington Mowden Park who are still smarting from losing so narrowly to Hartpury. Another game which could go either way, but recent recruits for the home side might give them the impetus to claim a narrow victory.
Out-of-form sides Fylde and Old Albanian meet in the north west. Both sides have struggled for consistency, although both are capable of scoring plenty of tries. Home advantage will make Fylde slight favourites for the win.