COVENTRY have named a 20-man squad showing three changes from the one that beat Birmingham Moseley last time out for tomorrow’s visit to Macclesfield.
Dual registered flanker Jack Willis replaces Sam Harry in the back row, while Tom Jubb (pictured) comes into the starting second row for Brendon Snyman with his place on the bench going to new arrival Josh Peters. Owain James also returns on the bench.
Other amendments to the starting side see Cliffie Hodgson and Will Maisey come off the bench to pair up at centre with Tom Wheatcroft in the replacements and Crey Hircock rested, while front row rotation sees hooker Matt Price and prop Phil Boulton – who will captain the side – start this week with Scott Tolmie and Jimmy Litchfield stepping down.
Cov are unbeaten in their last three games, but director of rugby Rowland Winter says their sole focus is on tomorrow’s game and despite Macclesfield’s position at the bottom of the National League One table, they will not under-estimate their hosts.
“We are not looking any further than this weekend, we want to start 2017 with a win,” said Winter. “We also want to continue our good form shown over the last six weeks.
“An away trip to Macclesfield is tough, they are scrapping for survival, and we will have to be switched on and focused to come away with the points.”
“Boris Stankovich had an injection in his knee over the Christmas break and isn’t quite ready to go this week, and we are also being careful with Rob Knox, Sam Grasso and Olly Povoas who are back in full training after injuries. They will now have to work hard to earn a spot in the squad.”
Kick-off at Priory Park is 3pm.
Tom Little looks at the rest of the weekend’s National League One programme.
Birmingham Moseley v Hull Ionians
Blackheath v Fylde
Darlington Mowden Park v Ampthill & District
Hartpury College v Esher kick off 14.30
Loughborough Students v Blaydon 14.00
Macclesfield v Coventry Rugby
Old Albanian v Cambridge
Rosslyn Park v Plymouth Albion
AFTER the excitement of pre-Christmas, the fixtures for the Week 17 seem altogether more mundane with only Plymouth Albion’s visit to Rosslyn Park giving the possibility of an upset.
Leaders Hartpury College are back at home with a 22-point lead over their nearest challengers and face Esher, who have had a disappointingly inconsistent season and have struggled mainly away from home. This has left them just four points clear of the danger zone and with Hartpury still unbeaten , there should only one outcome – another bonus point win for the leaders.
In what is likely to be a close encounter, rapidly-improving Rosslyn Park are at home to second-placed Plymouth Albion. Both sides have cause for optimism with Albion two conversions short of inflicting a first defeat on Hartpury College in their last game. Park have the pack to trouble Albion and with home advantage might expect to be slight favourites.
Another side reaching for the stars, Ampthill & District are up to third and only one point behind Albion. They travel to face Darlington Mowden Park, who are undefeated in their last two games but despite this better form still only four points ahead of the relegation zone, so this will be a crucial game for them to put some distance between themselves and the bottom three. The game may hinge on whether the home pack can more than match that of Ampthill, which appears to be their strength. The visitors are expected to be slight favourites to win this one leaving DMP perilously close to the drop zone.
Birmingham Moseley, after a narrow defeat at Coventry, are back at home to face a Hull Ionians side still in the final relegation spot despite beating Loughborough Students before Christmas. A game that both sides need to win for different reasons – Moseley are in fourth place and only one point behind Plympouth in second, whilst Ionians are only four points short of escaping from the relegation zone. At home Moseley should be too strong for Ionians who have a far better home record than away.
Only two points behind Moseley, yet in fifth place, are Blackheath who have Fylde as their visitors. It is fair to say that Fylde have had a disappointing season so far, aggravated by a poor away record, and this is not expected to change this weekend. A win for the home side could see them take over second place, but another loss for Fylde will leave them closer to the wrong end of the table.
After a surprise loss at Hull Ionians, Loughborough Students are back at home to face another relegation-threatened side in Blaydon who are till in 15th place and 12 points from safety. A crucial game for Blaydon as surely another loss would leave them too much to do to escape. An expected home win for the Students could see them move up to seventh place.
Old Albanian are at home against eastern neighbours Cambridge who are just one position and five points behind their ninth-placed hosts. Both sides can be free-scoring and have identical records in that respect, but Cambridge have been let down by their defensive frailties. It could be a high-scoring encounter, but at home OA should be favourites.
COVENTRY: 15 James Stokes, 14 Tom Howe, 13 Cliffie Hodgson, 12 Will Maisey, 11 Max Trimble, 10 Tony Fenner, 9 Pete White, 1 Andy Brown, 2 Matt Price, 3 Phil Boulton (captain), 4 Tom Poole, 5 Tom Jubb, 6 Brett Daynes, 7 Jack Willis, 8 Darrel Dyer.
Replacements: 16 Scott Tolmie, 17 Jimmy Litchfield, 18 Josh Peters, 19 Owain James, 20 Tom Wheatcroft.