Lucas Titherington celebrates his 24th birthday this weekend by starting at inside centre in Coventry Rugby’s Championship opener against his former club Caldy (Butts Park Arena, 4pm kick off).
The powerhouse no.12, who joined the blue-and-whites following the Wirral-based club’s promotion to English rugby’s second tier in 2022, partners September’s Championship player-of-the-month Will Wand in midfield.
They operate outside Evan Mitchell whose fine form in the Premiership Rugby Cup has won him a fly half start ahead of Pat Pellegrini who instead dons the no.23 shirt he wore with such success during Tonga’s World Cup campaign.
Cov therefore retain the same back three and half-backs that started their narrow cup defeat at Gloucester last time out.
In the pack the absence of experienced lock James Tyas brings together the youthful George Smith and former Saracen Obi Nkwocha in the second row.
Along with replacement lock Rhys Anstey the duo put in some impressive displays during their club’s five cup outings.
An eye-catching back-row combination sees summer signing Jack Bartlett operate at no.8 between international flankers Matt Kvesic and Paddy Ryan.
Loose-head prop Elliot Chilvers is another whose cup form has earned him a starting berth alongside captain Jordon Poole and Eliot Salt.
Tight-head prop Adam Nicol who joined Cov from Jersey Reds following the champions’ sudden demise is in line to make his blue-and-white debut from the bench where he is joined by on-loan Bath prop Arthur Cordwell and Suva Ma’asi.
Coventry head coach Alex Rae said his team must put memories of their fine 2022/23 season behind them and begin afresh against dangerous opponents who scored five tries in defeat against Nottingham last weekend.
“We know we have to start again this season regardless of what we did last year,” he said.
“We are very much performance-based and we know if we continue to get better and step up from last year we should do well.
“Caldy found their feet in the Championship really well and by beating Ealing they showed everyone they are well capable on their day of a big performance. We nearly lost up there last year so we know if we’re not on song they are very capable of giving us problems.
“We’d have loved to start last week with everyone else but instead we’ve had another week to think about it but we’ve had a terrific week’s training and we’re now itching to play.”
Coventry Rugby: James; Hutler, Wand, Titherington, Martin; Mitchell, Chudley; Chilvers, Poole, Salt; Nkowcha, Smith; Ryan, Kvesic, Bartlett.
Replacements: Ma’asi, Cordwell, Nicol, Anstey, Ball, Lane, Rigg, Pellegrini
Tickets for Coventry’s Championship opener against Caldy on Saturday at the Butts Park Arena (4pm ko) are available here.