COVENTRY Rugby make two enforced changes from last week for tomorrow’s rearranged game at Darlington Mowden Park with Luke Narraway and Rob Knox ruled out after picking up slight knocks in the win over Cambridge
Brett Daynes comes off the bench, where George Oram returns from a calf injury, to replace Narraway at No.8, and Max Trimble has recovered from illness to take over on the wing from Knox.
The only other change to the 20-man squad sees scrum-half Dave Brazier come on to the bench for Tony Fenner.
Said director of rugby, Rowland Winter: “Dave was the unlucky one to miss out last week and this time it’s Tony, just because we feel we need more cover at 9 this week.”
Loose head prop Andy Brown will be making his 99th league appearance for Cov, who take on their closest rivals for the National League One title with Winter insisting that all the pressure is on the home side.
Table toppers Cov go into the game at the Northern Echo Arena with a 21-point lead over Park – eight more than when the two were scheduled to meet in December – which, says Winter, makes this a must-win for the hosts.
“Darlington have got to chase the game for the league points and have really got to win to have any chance of closing the gap, so the pressure is on them” he said.
“They’re unbeaten as well at home all season which is a record they will be keen to keep, so it’s a good opportunity for us to go up and put in a strong performance and win the game, which we are capable of doing. We’re really looking forward to it.
“They have a game in hand over us, but at the moment the gap is more than four bonus-point wins so really this is a game they have got to win.
“It’s the first time this year you could almost say that we are the underdogs and can have a cup final attitude about it – normally the pressure is always on us.
“Of course there is always another Blackheath waiting round the corner, but we have a strong squad and there is nothing in the training and game statistics to suggest that there is going to be a drop in our performance levels.
“Last weekend’s results saw a big swing with us winning and Darlington losing, tomorrow could be the same, and the boys are fully focused on what they need to do.”
Kick-off is 2pm.
Coventry Development are away at Jersey Athletic in the Zoo Sports Shield (12.30pm).
COVENTRY: 15 James Stokes, 14 Max Trimble, 13 Heath Stevens, 12 Alex Grove, 11 Anthony Matoto, 10 Will Maisey, 9 Pete White, 1 Andy Brown, 2 Phil Nilsen, 3 Phil Boulton (captain), 4 Nile Dacres, 5 Tom Jubb, 6 Latu Makaafi, 7 Jack Preece, 8 Brett Daynes.
Replacements: 16 Scott Tolmie, 17 Luc Jeannot, 18 George Oram, 19 Dave Brazier, 20 Sam Tuitupou. Travelling reserves: 21 Jack Higgins, 22 Paddy Ryan, 23 Tony Fenner, 24 Rob Knox.
Tom Little previews the rest of this weekend’s National League One programme
Birmingham Moseley v Plymouth Albion
Cambridge v Caldy Kick off 14.00
Darlington Mowden Park v Coventry Rugby 14.00
Hull Ionians v Rosslyn Park 14.00
WEEK 26 sees the first catch-up fixtures which include the important meeting between leaders Coventry Rugby and Darlington Mowden Park , who are 21 points behind albeit with a game in hand. This fixture could be the defining one of the season.
Fourth-placed Plymouth Albion travel to Birmingham Moseley for a difficult fixture. Although Albion did Coventry a favour last week by beating DMP, their away form has been more patchy and, at home Moseley, with their big pack, can be ruthless. It won’t be plain sailing for the visitors and in a close game Moseley might just sneak it.
Two sides just in the lower half of the table, Cambridge in eleventh ace, entertain and Caldy who are ninth. Although both teams experienced bigger losses than they expected last week they are well matched. At home Cambridge will be slight favourites and a win for them will take them above their visitors.
In another crucial game for them, relegation-threatened Hull Ionians are at home to Rosslyn Park. Although only two points from safety, Ionians have been finding it difficult to get the necessary wins. Last week’s home draw with fellow strugglers Loughborough Students was not really enough, so against out-of-sorts Park they need to take the chance to go above Students. Park have had a poor season so far and, at home, Ionians will be slight favourites. However, another loss for them would leave them favourites to fill the final relegation place.