FLANKERS Latu Makaafi and Jack Preece and three-quarter Alex Grove are back in Coventry’s starting line-up for tomorrow’s game against Blackheath at Butts Park Arena (3pm).
The game brings together two of the three remining unbeaten sides in National League One for a game director of rugby Rowland Winter says is Cov’s biggest test so far.
“It will be a tough challenge – Blackheath have played three of the perceived top sides in the league in Plymouth, Rosslyn Park and Ampthill, and beaten them all” said Winter.
“Their set piece is strong, their defence has been up with the best, and with Joe Tarrant and Josh Davies at half-back they are a lively attacking outfit.
“It will be a battle, but we’ve picked a strong squad which we feel will test Blackheath. We will need to be at our best and definitely want to improve on our performance of last Saturday.”
After making changes for the trip to Old Albanian, Cov have reverted to the squad that played against Birmingham Moseley a fortnight ago bar their back five forward replacement where Olly Povoas is preferred to Brett Daynes.
Said Winter: “I was really pleased with Olly’s performance last week and the way he has trained in the last two or three weeks – he’s a dogged, tenacious player and brings a lot of intensity to what we do.”
Grove has recovered from the groin injury which kept him out last week to return on the wing while James Stokes is fit after coming off at Old Albanian with a dead leg.
There are new faces in the Coventry Development squad to play Blackheath Heathens in a Zoo Sports Shield league game (12.30pm) preceding the senior match. Centre Isaac McNulty will figure after returning from a spell in New Zealand playing for Kurow and Otago’s Mitre 10 Cup Championship squad, along with Northampton Academy back Tom Emery.
Back row Waita Setu is ruled out this weekend by the shoulder injury which forced him off on his debut at OA. Winger Max Trimble is two weeks away from a return to train while second row Tom Jubb, who has been struggling eth hip and hamstring issue, hopes to have some game time today for the Development side.
Fly-half Tony Fenner, injured on the opening day of the season, is recovering well and is targeting a return in early November, and second row Tom Poole is due for surgery next week to repair a bulging disc and will be out until the New Year.
Post-match entertainment in the Arena Bar will be provided by Reward.
COVENTRY: 15 James Stokes, 14 Alex Grove, 13 Heath Stevens, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Rob Knox, 10 Will Maisey, 9 Pete White, 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 Olly Povoas, 19 Dave Brazier, 20 Ben Palmer.
COVENTRY DEVELOPMENT: 15 Tom Emery, 14 James Neal, 13 Joe Lane, 12 Isaac McNulty, 11 Kwaku Asiedu, 10 Max Titchener, 9 Connor Adams, 1 Nathanael Titchard-jones, 2 Matt Price (captain), 3 Luc Jeannot, 4 Mike Ryan, 5 Cameron Gray, 6 Tom Price, 7 Sam McNulty, 8 Brett Daynes.
Replacements: 16 Harry Morley, 17 Tarik Tin, 18 Willie Priestley, 19 Fred Clark, 20 Myles Hibbs, 21 Louis Roach, 22 Sam Payne.
Tom Little previews the rest of this weekend’s National League One programme
Ampthill & District v Esher
Birmingham Moseley v Darlington Mowden Park
Caldy v Cambridge
Coventry Rugby v Blackheath
Hull Ionians v Old Albanian
Old Elthamians v Loughborough Students
Plymouth Albion v Fylde
Rosslyn Park v Bishops Stortford
WEEK 4 brings together two of the three unbeaten sides as Coventry and Blackheath meet in the Midlands, whilst the only remaining side with a 100% record, Darlington Mowden Park are also in the Midlands to face Birmingham Moseley. The bottom of the league sees a clash between Hull Ionians and Old Albanian, whilst the other side yet to win, Fylde face the unenviable task of visiting Plymouth Albion.
Leaders Darlington Mowden Park face the hurdle of going to Birmingham Moseley, who remain unbeaten at home. DMP have an experienced side with fly-half Warren Seals running the show and Newcastle Falcons players, wing Adam Radwan and flanker Simon Uzokwe getting rave reviews, so Moseley will have to be at their best to get anything out of this fixture. A narrow away win is on the cards.
Another formidable side coming into form, Plymouth Albion entertain point-less Fylde. The seasiders had a traumatic pre-season, losing many experienced players, and are still struggling to reach parity with the rest of NL1.There should only be one winner in this contest with Albion expected to keep the pressure on the leaders. Concerning times indeed for Fylde.
One of the three sides to have three try bonus points, Caldy are at home to Cambridge. League newcomers Caldy are turning into an effective attacking force and at home should be more than a match for a Cambridge side yet to earn even one try bonus point. A win for the home side might move them into the top four.
Ampthill & District, in 8=eighth place, must think the NL1 Gods are against them after being held to a draw by Moseley and then suffering a one-point defeat at Blackheath after leading in both games. They have a chance to redeem themselves at home to Esher who have made a steady start to the season with two bonus point wins and provided their defence is on target, a close game is in prospect. Probably a home win in the end.
Bishop’s Stortford, who lost their unbeaten record last week, travel to out-of-sorts Rosslyn Park who have lost their last two games despite being one of the pre-season favourites. Both sides have only scored one try bonus point, but home advantage might just give Park the edge.
After obtaining their first NL1 win last week, Old Elthamians will be looking to double their tally with a home victory over Loughborough Students. Still trying to find their best combinations, the Students let a substantial lead evaporate against Caldy and paid the price. Against an experienced side such as OE, the Students can’t afford to do that again and the home side should be firm favourites to take the win.
Two winless sides, Hull Ionians and Old Albanian meet in the north-east. Despite some spirited performances Ionians have been unable to get even one match point while since their opening fixture, a much-changed OA side boosted by Saracens loanees has surprised many by almost beating Ampthill and Coventry. A new-found steeliness should give OA a narrow win.