CENTRE Heath Stevens will mark his 100th league appearance for Coventry Rugby by leading out the team for tomorrow’s game against Cambridge at Butts Park Arena.
Stevens returned to action off the bench in last Saturday’s win at Loughborough following a three-month injury lay-off and starts tomorrow alongside Alex Grove with Anthony Matoto moving out to the wing for Max Trimble, who has been ill this week.
Fly-half Will Maisey and flanker Latu Makaafi both return after sitting out last week’s game, with Tony Fenner and Brett Daynes going to the bench, and Phil Nilsen starts at hooker on rotation with Scott Tolmie.
Scrum-half Dave Brazier misses out from last week’s squad while second row George Oram is ruled out by a calf injury sustained in last week’s pre-match warm-up.
“Dave is unlucky this week, and although George has recovered really well he’s not quire ready to play,” said director of rugby Rowland Winter.
Cov ran out 40-7 winners when the two sides met at Cambridge in October, but the visitors – currently 11th in the table – have been enjoying a run of improved results with recent wins over third and fourth-placed Ampthill and Plymouth Albion.
Said Winter: “Cambridge have plenty of talented players in their side and they’ll be brimming with confidence after a couple of good wins.
“They’ve improved from last season, so it will be a tough test and they’re definitely a team that we can’t underestimate in any way.
“Our performance at Loughborough last week wasn’t up to the level we expect and we need to step up from that.
“The boys take a lot of pride in what they do, they’ve trained well this week, and being back at home they are keen to lift their performance back to the standards they set themselves.”
Kick-off is 3pm.
Coventry Development are at home to Cambridge 2nd in a Zoo Sports Shield fixture, venue to be confirmed.
On the injury front, second row Cameron Gray is missing this week with a shoulder problem. Waita Setu, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, will shortly resume full training, while Olly Povoas is awaiting the result of a shoulder scan and Tom Poole is will have a final X-ray before a full return to training.
COVENTRY: 15 James Stokes, 14 Rob Knox, 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 Luke Narraway.
Replacements: 16 Scott Tolmie, 17 Luc Jeannot, 18 Brett Daynes, 19 Tony Fenner, 20 Sam Tuitupou.
COVENTRY DEVELOPMENT: 15 Max Titchener, 14 Louis Roach, 13 Kwaku Asiedu. 12 Ravai Fatiaki, 11 James Neal, 10 Ben Palmer, 9 Dave Brazier, 1 Nathanael Titchard-jones, 2 Willie Priestley, 3 Jack Higgins, 4 Kailus Hutchinson, 5 Mike Ryan, 6 Tom Prce, 7 Myles Hibbs, 8 Paddy Ryan. Replacements TBC.
Tom Little previews the rest of this weekend’s National League One programme
Ampthill & District v Caldy kick off 14.15
Birmingham Moseley v Fylde
Blackheath v Esher
Coventry Rugby v Cambridge
Hull Ionians v Loughborough Students 14.00
Old Albanian v Bishop’s Stortford
Plymouth Albion v Darlington Mowden Park
Rosslyn Park v Old Elthamians
ROUND 23 sees two crucial games at both ends of the table. Second-placed Darlington Mowden Park travel to fourth-placed Plymouth Albion, whilst Hull Ionians in 14th have 13th-placed Loughborough Students as their visitors.
It could be a season-defining game at Plymouth. Albion have effectively dropped out of the promotion race, but at home they are still strong. Park, meanwhile, are not so good away but have still been getting wins so this clash could be a close affair. Coventry will be hoping for a draw or an Albion win.
Ampthill & District, although still in third place, have recently fallen off the pace and they cannot be certain of a home win over Caldy, who still need a few wins to be certain of League One survival but have the experienced in their side to cause an upset here.
Blackheath, who put up a good show away to DMP, are back at home to M25 rivals Esher. The home side should be confident of a win, but Esher do have the capacity to surprise most teams and the match could be a lot closer than first expected.
Rosslyn Park, after being so soundly beaten at Caldy, are also back at home against Old Elthamians. OEs have surprised many this season with their results and last week had a close home win over Plymouth. Despite home advantage Park have struggled for most of this season and will find their visitors a handful. An away win is on the cards.
Surely it is too late for Old Albanian to avoid the drop as they are 13 points from safety. They entertain a Bishop’s Stortford side who have been a tough to beat all season. It could be a close encounter, but BS will be slight favourites.
Birmingham Moseley, in eighth place, have been impressive of late, especially through their effective pack, and will be overwhelming favourites to seal a big win at home to bottom of the table Fylde. A win for Moseley could see them up to seventh spot, a good sign for next season, whilst another loss for Fylde could see them only one game from confirmed relegation.
Perhaps the most intriguing game of the round pits Hull Ionians at home to Loughborough Students. This is effectively a battle over the final relegation place, currently held by the home side, but after last week’s results they are now only two points behind Students and safety. However, Students put up a good display in defeat against leaders Coventry last week, and this is a game which could go either way with possibly the home side just sneaking it.