RFU Championship News. Previews of all the Round 21 games. All the teams plus news and comment
Saturday 18 February 2012
Doncaster v Rotherham Titans 12:05
Moseley v Bedford 15:00
Plymouth Albion v Nottingham 15:00
Sunday 19 February 2012
Cornish Pirates v Bristol 14:00
Leeds Carnegie v Esher 15:00
London Scottish v London Welsh 14:00
Doncaster play Rotherham at Castle Park on Saturday - kick- off 12.05pm - in a game that will be televised live by Sky Sports.
The Knights go into the local derby having played Nottingham in midweek – the first of three games in the space of nine days with a trip to Bristol to come next Friday.
Rotherham flanker Robin Copeland scored two breathtaking tries in the corresponding clash at Clifton Lane, which ended in a 23-10 win for the Titans, and the Irishman warmed up with another touchdown – his eleventh of the season - in Monday’s 14-19 reverse at the hands of the Cornish Pirates.
Bristol and Cornish Pirates were one and two in the league when they last met back in November and the same applies for Sunday’s return game at the Mennaye Field.
Bristol got out of jail at the Memorial Stadium in the previous meeting, scoring 20 unanswered points to win a thrilling match 37-33.
A bonus- point win would guarantee Pirates second place in the Championship regardless of how Bedford fare away to Moseley. The Blues have won twelve games on the trot in the league against Moseley.
London Welsh’s first- ever game as a club was against London Scottish in October 1885, yet league meetings between the two rivals have been few and far between. They have played each other on just four occasions, resulting in two wins for Welsh, one for Scottish and a draw.
Elsewhere, Plymouth entertain Nottingham and Leeds play host to Esher.
This game will be televised live by SKY Sports
Doncaster Knights have rung in the changes as they look to field a squad capable of claiming derby honours against Rotherham Titans at Castle Park tomorrow.
Brett Davey has opted to show faith in younger members of the squad, and has handed a first start to new signing Gareth Quinn-McDonogh.
The Irish fly-half will line up alongside a back line which sees several positional changes, with Oli Goss moving to the wing and both Fred Burdon and PJ Gidlow lining up in the centres. Michael Noone returns at number 8 after some impressive recent showings in the back row.
Utility back Toby Berridge earns his first selection on the bench, while Stuart Corsar, who has been out of action since before Christmas with a torn hamstring, is also named among the replacements.
15 Dougie Flockhart, 14 Oli Goss, 13 Fred Burdon, 12 PJ Gidlow
11 Michael Keating, 10 Gareth Quinn-McDonogh, 9 Chris Hallam
1 Tom Davies, 2 Steve Boden, 3 Alex Brown, 4 Matt Challinor
5 Dominic Parsons, 6 Andy Boyde, 7 Zack Farivarz, 8 Michael Noone
16 Royce Burke-Flynn, 17 Stuart Corsar, 18 Chris Planchant, 19 Adam Kettle
20 Latu Makaafi, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Toby Berridge
Rotherham Titans' preparations have gone well this week ahead of this big South Yorkshire tussle against Doncaster Knights on Saturday, where the match is being covered live by Sky Sports.
Ahead of the clash Titans have made eight changes to their starting 15, with four of those being positional. In the backs Dave McCall returns to the outside centre berth, Shane Cahill has recovered from injury and reclaims the loose head shirt, whilst Ted Stagg is given an opportunity to shine in the number 2 jersey.
Titans top try scorer Robin Copeland has shaken off a virus which affected his training schedule last week and will start at blind side.
Positional changes see Stephen Hamilton going to full back, meaning Tom Foden switches to the wing and Shane Monahan returns to the wing having played in the centres last time out. Club captain Sam Dickinson moves from back row to second row in what looks like a very competitive pack of forwards.
Rotherham have never beaten Doncaster away in 8 previous attempts and the overall head to head in all competitions sees Rotherham with just 4 victories from the 17 previous encounters.
No doubt in front of the Sky Sports cameras and the anticipated large crowd, Doncaster will have targeted Rotherham as a must win game. Therefore there can be little doubt, if Titans are going to gain their first victory at Castle Park; they will need to be at their best.
Titans head coach Andre Bester is aware of the challenge that lies ahead, as he acknowledged,
“Doncaster is a big game and it is an important game, it’s a South Yorkshire derby. We want to win every game we play in but we know that they are a very good side and at home they are exceptional, they will feel they have a lot to prove after their defeat at Nottingham on Wednesday.
“They will provide us with another tough assignment and that will provide us with another opportunity to shake off the cobwebs and allow us to get focused on the business end of the season.
“We are expecting a war against Doncaster; it’s always a war against them! Any derby and specifically a South Yorkshire derby is tribal.
You read about tribal wars back in historical times, but this match is like a car crash with lots of collisions. But at the end of the day I want the game to be played in a good spirit, because rugby is a special game.
“It is also a great opportunity for South Yorkshire to have a window through Sky Sports, to show the rest of the UK the standard of rugby in the Championship, the competitive nature of rugby in Yorkshire and what a brilliant place it is to come to.
“In the context of the Doncaster match being a derby, it is an important game. In the context of the bigger picture and how we go on in the play-offs, it’s not. The Doncaster game will not have any bearing on what is going to happen in the play-offs. I can’t accentuate it more, what happens in the play-offs is all important to us.
“Our ambition is to be very competitive come play-off time. I won’t take my eye of the bigger picture and that is, who is going to have a say in the semi-finals and final. We will not get carried away or distracted by anything else.
Full Preview www.rotherhamrugby.co.uk
15 Stephen Hamilton, 14 Tom Foden, 13 Dave McCall, 12 Pale Nonu
11 Shane Monahan, 10 Garry Law, 9 Jimmy Williams
1 Shane Cahill, 2 Ted Stagg, 3 Rob O’Donnell, 4 Sam Dickinson (Capt.)
5 Barney Maddison, 6 Robin Copeland, 7 Sean Dougall, 8 Semisi Taulava.
16 Dan Baines, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Ben Hooper, 19 Neale Patrick
20 Carl Kirwan, 21 Ed Tellwright, 22 Cliffie Hodgson.
Moseley take on Midlands rivals Bedford this week-end in the second of three very difficult matches to end their “regular” season. In the corresponding match at Goldington Road in the autumn Bedford were comfortable winners, and Moseley will be seeking to make it a tougher contest this time on their own territory.
Whilst Moseley’s backs are little changed from those which took the field against Bristol last week, the forwards have been shuffled, with changes in all three rows of the scrum, most significant of which is the change in the second row where Richard Stott starts the match which takes him above Andy Binns’ record number in the professional era.
1. Marshall Gadd, 2.Adam Caves, 3.Craig Voisey, 4.Richard Stott
5.Paul Spivey, 6.Neil Mason, 7.Ben Pons, 8. Michael Ellery
9. Ryan De La Harpe, 10. Glynn Hughes, 11. William Robinson
12. Andy Reay, 13. Brad Hunt, 14. Anthony Carter, 15. Ollie Thomas
16. Anthony O’donnell,17. Colin Quigley, 18. Dan Sanderson
19. Michael Maltman, 20. David Lyons, 21.Greg King, 22 Sam Brown.
Bedford Blues - With just two games to go before the Championship play-offs begin, Bedford head off to Moseley this weekend looking to get their first win away from home since November.
Billesley Common is never an easy place to visit as Bristol, Doncaster, Plymouth and Esher have already learnt this season as did Cornish Pirates who drew 27 all with Moseley on the opening weekend of the Championship.
A sickness bug has swept through Goldington Road this week meaning that captain James Pritchard is ruled out of action whilst Mark Kohler is suffering from a knee injury. Sacha Harding and Handre Schmidt also remain on the injury list but aren’t too far away from a return.
Looking ahead to the game against Moseley, Blues Forwards Coach Martin Hynes said: “With only a couple of games before the play-offs, this is another opportunity for some guys to stick their hand up and show everyone what they can do.
There’s been a bit of sickness around the club this week which has ruled a couple of people out of action but it’s a good chance to try some new combinations.
“Moseley is always a tough place to visit but we are hoping to build on our victory last weekend and try and get back to winning ways on the road once again.”
The Blues make seven changes to the team which defeated Plymouth last weekend with Dave Vincent, Henry Staff, Luke Baldwin, Chris Locke, Alex Rae and Jonathon Fisher all starting in place of Mark Kohler, Darryl Veenendaal, Neil Cochrane, Sean Tomes and Don Barrell while Brendan Burke moves to full back in place of James Pritchard.
15. Brendan Burke 14. Dave Vincent 13. Henry Staff 12. Ian Vass
11. Ollie Dodge 10. Jamie Lennard 9. Luke Baldwin
1. Sam Walsh 2. Chris Locke 3. Ben Cooper 4. Mike Howard
5. Alex Rae (c) 6. Gregor Gillanders 7. Darren Fox 8. Jonathon Fisher
16. Neil Cochrane, 17. Nico Steenkamp, 18. Phil Boulton, 19. Paul Tupai
20. Billy Johnson, 21. Stefan Liebenberg, 22.
Plymouth Albion hand city teenager Jack Arnott a debut in Saturday's Championship clash Nottingham at Brickfields.
The 18-year-old Ivybridge Community College pupil, who has come through Devonport Services junior ranks, will line-up on the wing in Albion's final regular home game of the season.
"I want to see Jack in action before the play-offs start," said head coach Nat Saumi.
Arnott's debut comes just a week after he had been set to make his England Under-20s bow. The youngster, who went to St Boniface School up until the age of 16, had been named on the bench for England's Six Nations clash in Italy, only for the game to be postponed due to the bad weather.
Albion also hand a first league start to young Irish hooker Davy McGregor as they make five changes to the team that lost to Bedford last week.
The other players to come into the team are prop Rob Dugard, lock Tyler Hotson and back-row forward Herbie Stupple.
Albion are without the experienced Sean-Michael Stephen, flanker Wayne Sprangle and centre Keni Fisilau.
Plymouth are bidding to make it seven home wins of the season against Nottingham. They have beaten every team, apart from Nottingham, outside the top four at Brickfields so far.
Plymouth Albion :
15 James Love, 14 Paul Bailey, 13 Bevon Armitage, 12 Sione Tu'ipulotu
11 Jack Arnott, 10 Paul Roberts, 9 Ruairi Cushion
1 David Morton, 2 Davy McGregor, 3 Rob Dugard, 4 Tyler Hotson
5 Dan Collier, 6 Herbie Stupple, 7 Sam Hocking, 8 Aaron Carpenter (capt).
Paul Rowley, Steve Johns, Ryan Hopkins, Jack Andrew, Rupert Freestone
Addison Lockley, James Harris, Gareth Evans.
Nottingham Rugby has overhauled its entire starting XV for Saturday’s RFU Championship trip to The Brickfields.
Full back David Jackson, out since late last year with a shoulder injury, former young England international Alex Shaw, who has battled an ankle problem and winger Rhys Crane, returning from a broken jaw, slot straight into the starting team.
Prop Matt Parr, who returned to action himself in Nottingham’s run-away 40-14 win over Doncaster mid-week, is promoted off the bench to face Plymouth.
Captain Craig Hammond also reclaims his spot after moving aside for Brent Wilson against the Knights and former England international Ayoola Erinle has been quickly recalled after being rested against Doncaster.
The shuffle of stars ensures that the Green and White will have one of the most explosive benches in the Championship when they meet Albion.
Japanese international James Arlidge, fresh from his 25 point half against Doncaster, fleet-footed Argentine Juan Socino, man of the match against the Knights, Nic Rouse and Tongan international Sione Kalamafoni will come on a big impact options.
Nottingham director of Rugby Glenn Delaney has jumped at the rare opportunity to use his squad to the fullest of its potential, resting players en masse.
Those who ran riot against Doncaster – Jonny Harris, Joe Duffey, Ryan Bower, Lee Morley, Filipo Levi, Brent Wilson, Sean Romans, Jack Cobden, Tim Streather, Andrew Savage and Alex Lewington – have all been given the weekend off.
“It was always going to be a squad effort to get through these next two weeks and four games,” Delaney said.
“You are obviously not in a bad position when you can name a bench like this and have the sort of talent come into the XV.”
While talk of recent weeks has been about the constant rescheduling of Nottingham’s home fixtures because of a frozen pitch, the lengthy delays has left Delaney with the strongest squad he’s had at his disposal during his tenure.
Jackson, Crane and Shaw have all used the time to their advantage.
“They have been doing their work getting fit, healthy and to the ready to be recalled like this,” Delaney said.
“We’ve missed a lot of rugby so far this year, but that has given guys time to get up to speed. Sure, there is going to be rustiness, we have to be honest about that, but it’s not like they have been training just this week because they have been involved in sessions for a while now.”
1 Parr 2 Holloway 3 Prescott 4 Hammond 5 Green
6 Cooper 7 Eggleshaw 8 Shaw
9 Jones 11 Crane 10 Hallett 12 Mama
13 Erinle 14 Penn 15 Jackson.
16 Taylor 17 Shields 18 Kalamafoni 19 Rouse
20 Barnham 21 Arlidge 22 Socino.
Cornish Pirates - A big crowd is expected at the Mennaye Field on Sunday for the visit of league leaders Bristol and a contest likely to be one of the games of the season, a second versus first clash.
Speaking ahead of Sunday's game, Cornish Pirates backs coach Harvey Biljon, commented:
"There is no doubt that Sunday’s encounter is going to be a tough one, as the game at the Memorial Stadium earlier in the season clearly provided testament to that.
'Bris' have some very wise old heads in the pack, plus threats across the park in the backs, and they must see themselves as favourites for promotion going into the play-offs."
The Pirates starting line-up shows a number of changes from the one that ran out against Rotherham Titans at Clifton Lane on Monday afternoon and they are all in the backs.
Skipper Gavin Cattle and Aaron Penberthy form the half-back pairing in place of Tom Kessell and Ceiron Thomas, and Rob Cook returns at full-back, taking over from Matt Evans.
The club's leading points scorer, Rob needs just four more points to make the 200 mark in the Championship this season.
The one other change in the backs will see David Doherty back in action, replacing Darren Daniel.
R. Cook, G. Pointer, A. Short, T. Cooper, D. Doherty
A. Penberthy, G. Cattle (capt), K. Marriott, P.Burgess, C. Morgan
I. Nimmo, M. Smith, A. Paver, D. Ward, R. Storer.
P. Andrew, T. Cowan-Dickie, C. Rimmer, B. Maidment
T. Kessell, C. Thomas, M. Evans.
Referee: Matthew Carley (RFU)
Assistants: Nick Williams & Richard Parker-Sedgemore
Bristol travel to Penzance on Sunday having secured top spot in the RFU Championship with two games to spare, but Bristol Prop Wayne Thompson expects one of the ‘toughest challenges’ of the season.
“Sunday will be a massive game,” he said. “Pirates made it to the final last year and we know what a dangerous side they are.
“Both teams will want to win to have that edge going into the play-offs. It promises to be a big occasion.
“Pirates play good rugby and threaten all over the pitch – there aren’t many sides that pick up a win at Mennaye Field. We will need to be on our mettle.
“It will be incredibly tough to get a win down there but if we do it will be a big confidence boost heading into business end of the season.”
Full Story www.bristolrugby.co.uk
Captain Iain Grieve is included among the replacements after a six-week spell on the sidelines with a fractured eye socket, sustained against Esher in January.
Head Coach Liam Middleton makes three changes to the starting line up from the side that thumped Moseley 48-13 last weekend.
Jack Tovey, Mark Irish and Josh Ovens return in place of Matt Williams, Darren Crompton and Henry Vanderglas respectively.
Ruki Tipuna continues as captain, forming a half-back partnership with fellow New Zealander Matty James.
Fly-half Matthew Jones is named in the 22-man squad after making his first-team debut at the Memorial Stadium last Sunday.
Sean Marsden, Jack Tovey, Fautua Otto, Luke Eves, George Watkins
Matty James, Ruki Tipuna (c); Mark Irish, Ross Johnston, Wayne Thompson
Glen Townson, Roy Winters, Josh Ovens, Marco Mama, Dan Montagu.
Rhys Lawrence, Darren Crompton, Jason Hobson
Mariano Sambucetti, Iain Grieve, Tom Slater, Matt Jones.
Leeds Carnegie will finally get back to action after three weeks since their last game at Headingley Carnegie when they face Esher this Sunday at home.
Following two postponed dates with Nottingham, Leeds now face three games in seven days that could have a major say on where they finish in the play off standings.
Michael Stephenson returns for Leeds at full back whilst new signing Halani Aulika will make his debut at loose head prop. The Tongan international can play on either side of the front row but is awarded the number one shirt for his debut.
Leeds Carnegie welcome back England U20 forwards Chris Walker and Dominic Barrow to the pack although Tommy Bell misses out this week.
15. Michael Stephenson 14. Lee Blackett 13. Iain Thornley 12. Scott Barrow
11. Pete Lucock 10. Joe Ford 9. Will Cliff
1. Halani Aulika 2. Andy Titterell (c) 3. David Young 4. Jon Pendlebury
5. Dominic Barrow 6. Ryan Burrows 7. Chris Walker 8. Jacob Rowan
16. Phil Nilsen 17. Sam Lockwood 18. Mo Mustafa 19. Dan Hemingway
20. Richard Beck 21. Robbie Shaw 22. Jordan Davies
Esher Skipper Tom Cheeseman insists Esher’s players are fighting for the club first and their futures second as they step up their battle to beat the drop.
Confidence is high at Esher after their stunning 24-14 comeback victory over London Scottish in last Saturday’s bottom-of-the-table clash.
Now Cheeseman is aiming to produce a shock at Leeds on Sunday ahead of the final-day home showdown against fellow strugglers Plymouth.
And the former Bath and Harlequins centre is confident Esher can beat the odds and end an injury-ravaged season on a high by securing their Championship status.
Esher will be forced to release players if they are relegated with RFU funding dropping from around £320,000 to just £7,000 for National One clubs but Cheeseman says they have put all thoughts of contracts on the backburner for now.
He said: “It’s the last thing on our minds at the moment to be honest. I think the best thing about this club is that we are quite tight as a unit, all the boys are good friends and socialise together, inside and outside the club.
“I see the win over Scottish as the first step of the journey that will end with the play-offs and us staying up and the guys will figure out their futures from there.
“We now need to take that momentum into the Leeds game and then into the play-offs. We have been in almost every game this season so to actually nail a game and finish it off in the way that we did was a great boost.
“It’s all coming together now and we definitely feel we can win at Leeds. If you can upset a team for the first 20 minutes, they can lose their heads a bit, lose their structure and we can capitalise. ”
Full Story www.esherrugby.com
15 Luke Daniels 14 Seb Stegman 13 Tom Cheeseman 12 Arran Cruickshanks
11 Phil Mackenzie 10 Mark Atkinson 9 Clive Stuart-Smith
1 Dave Millard 2 Kevin Corrigan 3 Ignacio Elosu 4 Tom Alexander
5 James Inglis 6 Sam Stitcher 7 Peter Synnott 8 Chris Goodman
16 Nic Mayhew 17 Shawn Renwick 18 Mike Macfarlane 19 James Campbell
20 Nicky Little 21 Andy Wright 22 Patrick O’Grady
London Scottish - If November's result between these two sides is anything to go by, with Gordon Ross' penalty with the last kick of the game giving Welsh bragging rights over London Scottish in the 'Battle of the Exiles', then this should be another thriller at Richmond Athletic Ground on Sunday, with London Welsh having developed a liking for late drama.
Following the last-minute defeat sustained in the reverse fixture back in November, Simon Amor’s men will be eager to make amends. Amor said:
“Our away game at London Welsh last November was one of those games in which we didn’t quite have the ability to close the match out and they won it with a last minute penalty.
We are expecting a physical battle from London Welsh. We know about their aggression across the forwards and backs, and we know that they are a powerful team. Their renowned blitz defence will put us under pressure, and will prove a complete contrast to Esher last weekend in the style of both attack and defence.
There will therefore be a lot of pressure on the boys today, but we are looking forward to the challenge and extra incentive we get from playing in front of a big crowd.”
Last weekend’s disappointing reverse to Esher doesn’t mask that fact that Scottish have a number of key players returning to full fitness.
Although Sunday’s game doesn’t necessarily make a huge amount of difference to the overall relegation picture, the prestige of putting one over Scottish’s fellow Richmond inhabitants is a huge incentive.
15 John Bordiss 14 Sean Morris 13 Ryan Westren 12 Charlie Hayter
11 Gerard Mullen 10 James Brown 9 Simon Amor
1 Alex Clarke 2 Tom Standfield 3 Alex MacKenzie 4 Alex Karonias
5 Josh Thomas Brown 6 Adam Kleeberger 7 James Kellard 8 Mark Bright
16 Matt Johnson 17 Adam Kwasnicki 18 Ben Thomas 19 Willie Lipp
20 Matt Heeks 21 Agustin Gosio 22 Ollie Grove
London Welsh - After two false starts against Doncaster Knights, London Welsh finally get back into action when they make the short trip to London Scottish on Sunday.
Round 1 in the ‘Battle of the Exiles’ went to Welsh when the sides met at Old Deer Park earlier in the season, but only thanks to a last ditch Gordon Ross penalty which saw Welsh edge home 18-16.
Lyn Jones’ men will be keen to make a return to winning ways on the road at the Athletic Ground after a disappointing defeat at Cornish Pirates nearly three weeks ago.
The Exiles have since been left kicking their heels, with their Championship clash against Doncaster at Old Deer Park twice falling victim to the weather.
Jones makes 10 changes, including four positional, from the side which lost 27-6 at Mennaye Field. Seb Jewell gets a run out at full back while Will Hurrell starts on the right wing in place of the injured Liam Gibson.
Jewell’s place at inside centre is taken by the returning Simon Whatling, while Jack Moates gets the nod at scrum half.
Vili Ma’asi starts at hooker with Shawn Pittman and Billy Moss swapping places on either side of the scrum. Adam Brown partners Martin Purdy in the second row.
In the back row Lee Beach is named at blindside flanker with Ben Russell moving to number eight.
On the bench, Greg Bateman makes a return to action.
15. Seb Jewell, 14. Will Hurrell, 13. Hudson Tonga’uiha, 12. Simon Whatling,
11. Joe Ajuwa, 10. Gordon Ross* ©, 9. Jack Moates
1. Shawn Pittman, 2. Vili Ma’asi, 3. Billy Moss, 4. Adam Brow
5. Martin Purdy, 6. Lee Beach, 7. Michael Hills, 8. Ben Russell.
16. Saul Nelson, 17. Greg Bateman, 18. Mike Powell, 19. Matt Corker
20. Rob Lewis, 21. Alex Davies, 22. James Lewis.
Gordon Ross has no qualms about being the only Scotsman in London Welsh ranks, as Lyn Jones’ side prepare to make the short journey to local rivals London Scottish on Sunday.
Being the only Scot at Old Deer Park on the back of Scotland’s Six Nations defeat to Wales is an altogether different matter however.
When Welsh and Scottish met earlier in the season at Old Deer Park, it was Ross that snatched victory for the home side with a last gasp penalty, with Scottish within touching distance of a famous win thanks to David Howells’ intercept try and the boot of James Brown.
“I don’t even think about it. In the past I’ve gone back to play against Edinburgh for Leeds, as an ex-Edinburgh player,” said Ross.
“These kind of things happen. You don’t think about it too much, you just crack on with the game.”
Welsh were given a difficult time in the scrum that day and although Ross and Co may have since made sure of their place in the promotion play-offs, while their near neighbours will have to battle it out to avoid a swift return to National One, all of that will count for nothing on Sunday.
“With it being a derby game they’ll be a bit of an edge to it,” said Ross, who has so far resisted the temptation to announce his international comeback for Scotland in the wake of Dan Parks’ retirement.
“In the game at Old Deer Park both teams tried to play good rugby and they just wore us down in the scrum in the second half. I think they’ll be slightly disappointed that they didn’t see that game out.
“Scottish did their homework very well, James Brown kicked well from ten and anytime we turned the ball over we found ourselves back in our own half.
“The lessons to be learned are to look after our ball, especially attack ball, and be wary of their kicking game off first phase.”
Welsh still have to entertain Leeds Carnegie at home as well as fit in their twice postponed clash with Doncaster Knights.
“From our point of view we’ve got three more games to play before the play-offs, and we want to win all three to build some momentum,” said Ross.
“Hopefully we can put together three performances together to prepare us for the play-offs both mentally and physically.
“This weekend it will be good for us to hopefully just get a game of rugby. We’ve had two very frustrating weeks and the guys are itching to play.
“There’s a good buzz about the place and lots of enthusiasm and energy, and hopefully we can bring that to the game on Sunday.
“We want to get back to standards we set against Bristol, especially the second half where our first phase was good, we got over the gain line and we played the game in the right areas of the park. And that’s what we need to try and so again this weekend.”