Team news for this weekend and Tom Little’s preview of the rest of the NL1 fixtures
SECOND row Tom Poole makes his 100th league appearance for Coventry when he lines up for the Blue & Whites in Saturday’s game against Fylde at Butts Park Arena.
Poole, who is in his fifth season at Cov, replaces Tom Jubb and will lead out a side that shows eight changes and one positional switch from the XV who started at Esher last week.
In the front row, Boris Stankovich comes off the bench at loose head in a rotational switch with England Counties prop Andy Brown, while Phil Boulton returns at tight head in place of Jimmy Litchfield.
Both back row flankers are changed, Sam Harry coming in at open side for unavailable Eoghan Grace while Jack Willis – who has played alongside Harry and No.8 Ali Bone for Wasps in the A League this season – steps in at blind side for injured Brett Daynes, who suffered a dead leg last week.
In the backs, Will Maisey comes back in at centre for Tom Wheatcroft, who picked up a slight knock to his shoulder early in last week’s game.
Wasps pair Owain James and Tom Howe start on the wings, replacing Dan Rundle and Corey Hircock who moves back to his preferred position of centre with Rob Knox going to the bench.
The side will be captained by fly-half Tony Fenner in the absence of Grace and Wheatcroft.
Scrum-half Pete White is added to the bench to make his first appearance for the club since joining in the summer from Bedford Blues, but Cliffie Hodgson misses out as a precautionary move after picking up a slight knock on his return last week
After a slow start to their National League One campaign, Fylde have won their last two games against Esher and Plymouth Albion and recorded a double over Cov last season.
“Fylde are an exciting team who look to play rugby from all areas of the pitch,” said Cov’s rugby director, Rowland Winter. “They have picked up some recent form and as a result will come to Butts Park Arena full of confidence.
“We are looking to build on our home form and get back to winning ways. We’ve picked a team who will work hard, and I am confident that we will cause Fylde problems.
“We are keeping Tom and Cliffie out of the squad this week as a precaution. They are frustrated, but they must remain patient and remember that it’s a long season and they will both play a big part in the team.”
Still on the injured list are back row Olly Povoas, who is a fortnight away from returning, while scrum-half Sam Grasso is awaiting results from a scan on his knee to determine how long his recovery will take. Max Trimble and James Pritchard have now returned to full training.
Winger Jay Heath is joining South Leicester on loan for a short period to get game time. Heath spent time at South Leicester last season while on loan from Nottingham.
“Jay needs to get game time under his belt,” said Winter. “He will train with us on Mondays and get competitive game time with South Leicester each week. He will be involved in our Nighthawks game against Cambridge University in four weeks’ time along with our wider squad players.”
Kick-off is 3pm and live post-match entertainment will be provided by Big Wednesday.
COVENTRY: 15 James Stokes. 14 Tom Howe, 13 Corey Hircock, 12 Will Maisey, 11 Owain James, 10 Tony Fenner (captain), 9 Rhodri Adamson, 1 Boris Stankovich, 2 Scott Tolmie, 3 Phil Boulton, 4 Tom Poole, 5 Brendon Snyman, 6 Jack Willis, 7 Sam Harry, 8 Ali Bone.
Replacements: 16 Matt Price, 17 Andy Brown, 18 Darrell Dyer, 19 Pete White, 20 Rob Knox. Reserves: 21 Jimmy Litchfield, 22 Cliffie Hodgson.
NATIONAL LEAGUE ONE PREVIEW
Tom Little looks at the rest of this weekend’s fixtures
Ampthill & District v Blackheath
Blaydon v Hartpury College kick off 14.30pm
Cambridge v Macclesfield
Coventry Rugby v Fylde
Hull Ionians v Esher
Old Albanian v Loughborough Students
Plymouth Albion v Darlington Mowden Park
Rosslyn Park v Birmingham Moseley
Week seven sees no less than six prospective well-matched games with only the top two, Hartpury College and Birmingham Moseley with, on paper, easier fixtures away at Blaydon and Rosslyn Park respectively.
Leaders Hartpury College visit bottom side, and still winless, Blaydon. Not only is it top versus bottom, but also the league’s highest and lowest scorers. On the face of it a foregone conclusion for Hartpury, but if the home side can get their forward power going and cut out their ill-discipline then they might be able to give College a better contest. However, Hartpury are expected to maintain their 100% record in some style, leaving Blaydon further in trouble.
The size of Birmingham Moseley’s win over Cambridge last week could send down shivers down the spine of a Rosslyn Park side yet to hit form. Despite it being an away game, Birmingham Moseley should have enough skills in their backs and a combative pack to ease to a narrow win.
Ampthill & District and Blackheath, with the same number of wins and virtually identical playing records, meet in Bedfordshire. The home pack might just have the edge, but Blackheath have shown this season that they can match most teams both up front and in the backs. Now on a run of five successive wins Blackheath should have the confidence and determination to make this a close contest, which could go either way.
Another pair of well-matched top six sides, Plymouth Albion and Darlington Mowden Park meet in Devon with both showing good recent form, although Albion must be seething after letting in a late winning try by Fylde to deny them victory last week. After a slow start to the season DMP are now in the top six and showing some attacking flair. A game which could be close with the home side narrow favourites.
Old Albanian are at home to an improving Loughborough Students side with one place and one point separating them in the table. OA have made a steady start to their NL1 campaign, and after a shaky start the Students have settled in and shown how competitive they can be. Another close one to call which could go with home advantage.
Equal on points with two wins each and also separated by one place are Hull Ionians and visitors Esher. The home side have recently come off the boil, but after two successive wins Esher will be confident of gaining their third win in a row to leave Ionians in trouble at the wrong end of the table.
The final game brings together two of the bottom four clubs, Cambridge and Macclesfield. The home side will be shell-shocked after their 72-point mauling at Moseley, whilst another loss by Macclesfield last week leaves them back in 15th place. A difficult game to predict between two out of form sides, but if Cambridge can get enough possession they might just earn a narrow win.