RFU Championship News. Previews of all the Round 21 games. All the teams plus news and comment
Monday 13th February
Rotherham Titans 14-19 Cornish Pirates
Sunday 12th February
Bristol 48-13 Moseley
Saturday 11th February
Bedford 29-17 Plymouth
Esher 24-14 London Scottish
Nottingham v Leeds Carnegie - Wednesday February 15th
London Welsh v Doncaster - POSTPONED
Having lost all last weekend’s round 20 games to the weather, the clubs have worked hard and are hopeful that conditions will improve sufficiently for the re-arranged fixtures to go ahead this weekend.
Following pitch inspections the London Welsh v Doncaster and Nottingham v Leeds Carnegie games are off
Nottingham still need a point from their remaining four games to be absolutely certain of a place in the top eight, with Moseley still having a mathematical – if extremely unlikely - chance of catching the Green & Whites.
Glenn Delaney’s men will have taken plenty of encouragement from last weekend’s 21-6 win at London Scottish, which ended a barren run in the league stretching back to early December. This weekend, though, they are up against Leeds, who they have not beaten in six league and cup meetings at this level. Leeds earned a hard- fought 21-17 win over Bedford in the last round, full- back Tommy Bell supplying all their points via seven penalties. Bell has now scored in every game he has played in for Leeds this season and contributed exactly half his side’s points (199 out of 398).
Leeds now have designs on a top four spot which would see them carry two points through to the play-offs. Leaders Bristol made sure of their place in the top four thanks to a bonus point win at home to Rotherham and they will almost certainly go into the play- offs as top seeds if they beat Moseley at the Memorial Stadium on Friday night. Second placed Cornish Pirates head to Rotherham where they came unstuck last year.
Elsewhere, the Championship’s bottom two do battle at Molesey Road when Esher take on London Scottish, London Welsh will look to make it seven wins on the bounce against Doncaster and Bedford play Plymouth.
This match will go ahead as planned today with a 2pm Kick off at Goldington Road.
Despite the overnight conditions the Blues staff and volunteers have worked hard on the pitch all morning and following discussions between an RFU official and representatives from both teams they have decided the match can be played.
Bedford Blues - After the ice interruption last weekend, Bedford Blues return to Goldington Road this week looking to continue their good home form as they welcome Plymouth Albion on Saturday afternoon.
The Blues only had themselves to blame after too many penalties were conceded against Leeds in their last outing with Carnegie fullback Tommy Bell punishing Bedford for their lack of discipline in the 21-17 defeat.
Sacha Harding and Handre Schmidt remain on the injury bench while the Championship’s top try scorer Josh Bassett misses out on account that he will be starting for England Under 20s against their Italian counterparts tonight in Rovigo.
Although Plymouth have been suffering problems off the pitch, they can boast a victory over Leeds and Bedford Director of Rugby Mike Rayer is under no illusion that Albion will be looking for another scalp this weekend.
He said: “Plymouth’s struggles off the pitch don’t appear to be affecting the team morale one little bit. Yes, they will be playing in the relegation play-offs, but they are in a good position with six bonus points for the victories they have this season and I’m sure that they will be targeting another one on Saturday.
“We didn’t get the result we wanted against Leeds and that was no one’s fault but our own. We repelled Leeds when they attacked but our discipline cost us and a fine kicking display by their fullback won them the game. Hopefully the lads learnt their lesson and we can put those mistakes behind us.
“Due to the postponement last weekend, we’ve had an extra week of training and I’m sure that everyone will be chomping at the bit to get back into action come 2pm on Saturday.”
The Blues make six changes to the team which started at Leeds with debuts for newest signings Darren Fox and Ben Cooper who replace Alex Rae and Phil Boulton respectively while the other change up front sees Don Barrell replacing the injured Paul Tupai.
In the backs there are changes at 9, 10 and 11 as Darryl Veenendaal, Jamie Lennard and Ollie Dodge start in place of Stefan Liebenberg, Jake Sharp and Josh Bassett. Sam Pailor and Phil Boulton return to the bench where they are joined by Henry Staff who has recovered from the injury that he picked up against London Scottish three weeks ago.
15. James Pritchard (c) 14. Mark Kohler 13. Brendan Burke 12. Ian Vass
11. Ollie Dodge 10. Jamie Lennard 9. Darryl Veenendaal
1. Sam Walsh 2. Neil Cochrane 3. Ben Cooper 4. Mike Howard
5. Sean Tomes 6. Gregor Gillanders 7. Darren Fox 8. Don Barrell
16. Nico Steenkamp, 17. Phil Boulton, 18. Sam Pailor, 19. Jon Fisher
20. Stefan Liebenberg, 21. Jake Sharp, 22. Henry Staff
Plymouth Albion - Dan Collier is set to make his first appearance of 2012 as Albion travel to Goldington Road Bedford.
The London-born lock returns to the Albion team as Tyler Hotson has had to make a trip home to Canada for family reasons.
Collier for Hotson is the only change to the team Albion had named to face Bedford last week. That game was postponed due to a frozen pitch and Albion are keeping their fingers crossed this weekend's game will go ahead as planned.
Albion are still without captain Sean-Michael Stephen, centre Keni Fisilau and hooker Gareth Evans, but Herbie Stupple is back in the squad.
In Stephen's absence fellow Canadian back-row forward Aaron Carpenter will captain the side.
15 J Love, 14 P Bailey, 13 B Armitage, 12 S Tu'ipulotu
11 S Johns, 10 P Roberts, 9 R Cushion
1 J Andrew, 2 R Freestone, 3 D Morton, 4 D Collier
5 A Lockley, 6 S Hocking, 7 W Sprangle, 8 A Carpenter (c).
P Rowley, T Lewis, R Dugard, R Hopkins
D McGregor, H Stupple, J Harris.
Albion have been boosted this week with news that coach Nat Saumi has committed his future to the club and will become their new director of rugby and head coach.
"I am delighted to be staying at Albion and to work with the players and board to move the club forward for the play-offs and the 2012/13 season," said Saumi.
“ I am looking forward to rising to the challenge of fulfilling the post of head coach and director of rugby for the first time.”
Esher Fly-Half Mark Atkinson wants Esher to lay down a marker for the play-offs in this big home clash against local rivals London Scottish.
Esher have just three games remaining against fellow strugglers Scottish and Plymouth plus a trip to Leeds before the Championship relegation shootout.
And Atkinson believes it is vital Esher show they are up for the fight after a season that has brought just one solitary win against Rotherham.
With each league victory worth a point in the play-offs, Esher remain four behind Scottish while Plymouth and Moseley have both chalked up six wins.
Atkinson admits the 37-17 defeat at London Scottish in November was one the lowest points in a dire campaign blighted with injuries to key players.
But the former Wasps player insists confidence is high and hopes the return against Scottish will get the go-ahead after the game was postponed last Saturday because of the big freeze.
Atkinson, 21, said: “These next two home games are massive. We need to use our home advantage because six weeks down the line when Scottish and Plymouth come back here in the play-offs, they will know we can beat them.
“It’s important to put down a statement against Scottish and Plymouth. I felt we threw the game away at Scottish but against Plymouth down there, we played badly.
“That defeat at Scottish was one that hurt the most because they are our local rivals. We were dominating the game and all of a sudden we took our foot off, there were a few injuries and the scrum started to go backwards.
“You’ve got to look at Scottish and Plymouth as massive two-point swings towards the play-offs and ideally it would be good to get two wins out of the three in the bag.”
Full Story www.esherrugby.com
15 Luke Daniels 14 Phil Mackenzie 13 Tom Cheesman 12 Arran Cruichshanks
11 Seb Stegman 10 Mark Atkinson 9 Jamie Mackenzie
8 Mike Macfalane 7 Peter Synnott 6 Sam Stitcher 5 James Inglis
4 Matt Symons 3 Will Collier 2 James Campbell 1 Dave Millard
16 Ignacio Elosu 17 Shawn Renwick 18 Chris Goodman 19 Kevin Corrigan
20 Nicky Little 21 Andy Wright 22 Clive Stuart-Smith
London Scottish Head Coach Simon Amor is delighted that the game against Esher is currently still due to go ahead at Moseley Road tomorrow.
"Clearly this game and the performance from all the players is critical at this stage given the lay of the land with the relegation play offs in sight.
It’s timely that we have a number of players coming back from injury for this game and their input could be crucial in this and other matches as we approach the ‘business end’ of the season."
15. John Bordiss 14. Sean Morris 13. Ryan Westren 12. Charlie Hayter
11. Gerard Mullen 10. James Brown 9. Simon Amor
8. Mark Bright 7. James Kellard 6. Adam Kleeberger 5. Josh Brown
4. Alex Karonias 3. Alex Mackenzie 2. Tom Standfield 1. Alex Clarke
16. Matt Johnson 17. Adam Kwasnicki 18. Ben Thomas 19. Willie Lipp
20. Matt Heeks 21. Ben Macdougall 22. Agustin Gosio
Foillowing a pitch inspection by an RFU Referee at 2:30pm today, this game is now off
London Welsh - It’ll be fingers crossed at Old Deer Park on Saturday as London Welsh and Doncaster Knights try to get this clash underway at the second time of asking.
Originally set for last Saturday, the fixture joined the rest of the weekend’s Championship programme in falling victim to the weather, albeit at the eleventh hour after the pitch passed inspections on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.
London Welsh head coach Lyn Jones makes nine changes, including two positional, for the visit of Doncaster.
Seb Jewell gets an opportunity to impress at full back, with his place in the centres taken by James Lewis. Lewis starts at outside centre with Hudson Tonga’uiha moving to the number 12 jersey.
The other change in the backs sees Jack Moates gets a start in place of Rob Lewis at scrum half.
In the front row, Tom French and Greg Bateman – the latter after a lengthy spell on the sidelines – come into the side.
Adam Brown partners Martin Purdy in the second row, while Lee Beach comes in at openside flanker.
The Exiles will be keen to bounce back from the 27-6 defeat at Mennaye Field, and maintain their impressive recent record over Doncaster.
Welsh’s victory at Castle Park earlier in the season extended the Exiles’ winning run over the Knights to six matches. Simon Whatling and Edd Thrower scoring the tries in a 21-10 win.
The Exiles have won the last two meetings between the two sides at Old Deer Park. They came out on top 29-24 last season and in the 2009/10 play-offs recorded a 26-10 victory.
Doncaster’s last win at Old Deer Park was also their last victory over the Exiles in any competition and that came in October 2009 when won 20-9.
15. Seb Jewell, 14. Will Hurrell, 13. James Lewis, 12. Hudson Tonga’uiha
11. Joe Ajuwa, 10. Gordon Ross ©, 9. Jack Moates
1. Tom French, 2. Saul Nelson, 3. Greg Bateman, 4. Adam Brown
5. Martin Purdy, 6. Ben Russell, 7. Lee Beach, 8. Ed Jackson.
16. Villi Ma’asi, 17. Billy Moss, 18. Shawn Pittman, 19. Mike Powell
20. Michael Hills, 21. Rob Lewis, 22. Alex Davies.
Doncaster Knights have named their squad to travel down to London Welsh this Saturday as the two sides attempt to stage their Championship clash for the second time after the fixture was postponed last weekend.
The team has faced a frustrating week of being unable to train outdoors due to snowy conditions, but DOR Brett Davey has named a strong side as he looks to target a highest-possible finish in the top 8.
The only changes from the side that beat Esher are in the pack, where Chris Planchant, who has featured regularly at number 8, replaces Andy Boyde at blindside flanker, whilst experienced player-coach Glen Kenworthy fills in at lock in place of the injured Matt Challinor.
In the front-row promising talent Jack Yeandle starts in place of the longest Knights servant, Steve Boden at hooker with Tom Davies returning to the starting line-up at loose-head. The bench sees the return of crowd favourite Latu Makaafi, who has recovered from illness.
David McIlwaine and Tom Luke remain on the injury list with Challinor absent for a short period. Ulster-born full-back McIlwaine has had surgery on a torn pectoral muscle and is a doubt for the remainder of the season.
15. Dougie Flockhart 14. Ben Toft 13. Oli Goss 12. Fred Burdon
11. Michael Keating 10. Mike Whitehead 9. Chris Hallam (C)
1. Tom Davies 2. Jack Yeandle 3. Alex Brown 4. Glen Kenworthy
5. Dominic Parsons 6. Chris Planchant 7. Zack Farivarz 8. Michael Noone.
16. Royce Burke-Flynn 17. Steve Boden 18. Andy Boyde 19. Adam Kettle
20. Latu Makaafi 21. Michael Heaney 22. Gareth Quinn-McDonogh
Bristol Rovers report that the playing surface at the Memorial Stadium this morning was soft and playable and ground staff will be working through the night to try and make sure the pitch is ready for Saturday's visit of Morecambe.
Frost and rain covers were put on the pitch earlier in the week and yesterday heaters were in place to blow hot air under the covers.
With snow predicted in Bristol over the next 24 hours, they will be keeping and eye on the weather and constantly evaluating the situation.
Bristol Rugby - Liam Middleton sticks with the same side as announced for the original fixture, as Bristol play host to Moseley in the rearranged game at the Memorial Stadium on Sunday.
The game was initially scheduled to be played last Friday, but heavy frost resulted in all RFU Championship fixtures being postponed.
The Head Coach includes four of his new signings in the 22-man squad. Henry Vanderglas is handed a full first-team debut and Matthew Jones and dual-registered prop Mark Lilley are named among the replacements.
Luke Eves returns to the Bristol line-up for the first time since his move from Newcastle, partnering the prolific Fautua Otto in midfield.
In the backline, Will Helu and Jon Goodridge make way for Eves and Sean Marsden respectively.
Mariano Sambucetti is preferred to Glen Townson in the second row, while Marco Mama and Dan Montagu replace James Merriman and Josh Ovens.
In the absence of Grieve and Merriman, scrum-half Ruki Tipuna will captain the side.
Sean Marsden; George Watkins, Fautua Otto, Luke Eves, Jack Tovey
Tristan Roberts, Ruki Tipuna (c); Mark Irish, Ross Johnston, Jason Hobson
Mariano Sambucetti, Roy Winters, Henry Vanderglas, Marco Mama, Dan Montagu.
Rhys Lawrence, Mark Lilley, Wayne Thompson, Glen Townson
Josh Ovens, Tom Slater, Matthew Jones.
Moseley - After last week’s postponement due to a frozen pitch, Moseley travel to Bristol to take on the Championship pace-setters.
The selection is similar to that which gained a narrow but deserved victory against Plymouth in Moseley’s last League outing.
Moseley have already faced Bristol twice this year, at home in the League and away in the British & Irish Cup, and were successful in both matches.
The Birmingham side is therefore expecting a big response from the home team who will be flat out to avoid a third defeat.
Coach Kevin Maggs, himself a former Bristol player, said “Bristol are a good side who sit justifiably at the top of the League.
They will desperately want the win and our defence will need to be as good as it was against Albion if we are to get anything from the match.”
1. Craig Voisey, 2.Adam Caves, 3. Colin Quigley, 4.Richard Stott
5.Paul Spivey, 6.Neil Mason, 7.Michael Ellery, 8.Chevvy Pennycook
09. Ryan De La Harpe, 10. Bradley Davies, 11. William Robinson
12.Andy Reay 13. Brad Hunt, 14. Anthony Carter, 15. Glynn Hughes
16. Anthony O’donnell,17. Marshall Gadd, 18. Dan Sanderson
19. Michael Maltman, 20. David Lyons, 21.Oliver Thomas, 22 Sam Brown.
Following a pitch inspection at 3.30pm Saturday the match against Leeds Carnegie has been postponed.
Due to the extreme temperatures overnight the pitch is frozen and with the forecast showing freezing again overnight and a max temperature of 4 degrees on Sunday, the RFU panel referee has postponed the match.
Nottingham - The Green and Whites are yet to play a home fixture in 2012 following the postponements of their last two scheduled fixtures due to the bad weather.
Rather than bemoan their luck, which will see them having to play three matches in a week, the players took the chance to practice for the icy conditions when they were put through their paces at the National Ice Centre in Nottingham during the week.
Nottingham's Director of Rugby Glenn Delaney said, "With the amount of ice around at the moment, it seemed like a good idea to get ready for any conditions! Seriously though, it was a good way for the boys to release the frustration of not being able to play.
"We've trained really hard but have been unable to put the things we've worked on into practice with the postponements. The lads are itching to get back out there at Meadow Lane in front of our home crowd and deliver a performance. Things like the 'ice session' ensures that the team remain in good spirits and that can only help us come game time.
"We know the challenge that Leeds will bring with them but we're confident that we can match them. It was a close encounter when we went up there and I expect the same again on Sunday. It should be a great game.
The Green and Whites have made a few changes to their squad ahead of the match. Ryan Bower starts at prop, while Nic Rouse returns from injury in the second row. Brent Wilson starts in the back row following his suspension.
James Arlidge returns at fly half following a well deserved break and Alex Lewington comes in on the wing in place of Mike Penn.
Michael Holford, Joe Duffey, Ryan Bower, Craig Hammond (c)
Nic Rouse, Sione Kalamafoni, Brent Wilson, Filipo Levi
Sean Romans, James Arlidge, Jack Cobden, Juan Socino
Tim Streather, Alex Lewington, Andrew Savage
Matt Holloway, Jonny Harris, Ben Prescott, Lee Morley
Phil Eggleshaw, Finlay Barnham, Ayoola Erinle
Nottingham are once again sweating on Mother Nature for this re-arranged match, the game was called off 48 hours before it was due to be played last Sunday because of a frozen pitch and with temperatures remaining in the minus position, the pitch is still unplayable.
If the Leeds game is postponed again, then the Green and Whites are going to have to play four games in a fortnight to complete their regular league campaign on time.
Nottingham's director of rugby, Glenn Delaney, is trying to put a positive slant on the backlog.
He said: "When you get the weather like this, matches just come to halt but this weather is not new for us because we've had it the last two years.
"We know how to handle it in training because of our past experiences and we are just getting on with it.
"Playing four matches in a fortnight is not helpful towards preparing for the play-offs but we are not alone in it."
Full Story: www.thisisnottingham.co.uk
Leeds Carnegie - Full back Michael Stephenson will return to action this Sunday as Leeds Carnegie head to Nottingham for this re-arranged fixture.
Stephenson missed the recent win over Bedford after picking up an injury at Plymouth Albion the previous week. He replaces Tommy Bell at full back with the youngster away with the England U20 squad this week.
Jordan Davies returns to the centres and he will take over kicking duties from Bell whilst Joe Barker starts at fly half.
In the pack, Sam Lockwood comes in for Gareth Denman and Richard Beck starts in the back row for Chris Walker, who will skipper England U20 in Italy tonight.
On the bench, new signings Halani Aulika and Ed Williamson are set to make their debuts for the club as replacements.
Leeds Carnegie :
15. Michael Stephenson, 14. Lee Blackett 13. Iain Thornley 12. Jordan Davies
11. Pete Lucock 10. Joe Barker 9. Will Cliff
1. Sam Lockwood 2. Andy Titterrell 3. David Young 4. Dan Hemingway
5. Tom Denton 6. Ryan Burrows 7. Richard Beck 8. Jacob Rowan
16. Phil Nilsen 17. Halani Aulika 18. Mo Mustafa 19. Jon Pendlebury
20. Ed Williamson 21. Robbie Shaw 22. Joe Ford
Rotherham report that after a pitch inspection by the match referee, todays game definitely goes ahead, kick-off 2pm.
Rotherham Titans - Along the back line sees the return of Stephen Hamilton, Dave McCall, Pale Nonu, Shane Monahan and Jimmy Williams. In the forwards there’s a new front row combination of Jamie Kilbane, Dan Baines and Rob O’Donnell, whilst a new back row combination sees Robin Copeland, Sean Dougall and Semisi Taulava return to action. Barney Maddison returns to lock after last week’s run out in the back row.
On the bench Tom Armes will be looking to get an opportunity to show the Rotherham faithful what he can do. The duel registered Leicester Tigers back rower is expected to get some game time against Pirates.
Rotherham will be aiming to maintain their impressive form at Clifton Lane, although the overall record between the sides see Pirates hold an 11-5 advantage in all competitions.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s game, Titans head coach Andre Bester said, “Pirates will present us with a difficult challenge, they will travel knowing they have already beaten us down there earlier in the season and will fancy turning us over at the Lane.
“Our home form is important to us and Clifton Lane is a difficult venue for opposition to come to and get the victory. We need to ensure that remains the same and I know if we play to our abilities, we are confident of getting the result we want against any team in the division.”
15 Tom Foden, 14 Stephen Hamilton, 13 Dave McCall, 12 Pale Nonu
11 Shane Monahan, 10 Cliffie Hodgson, 9 Jimmy Williams
1 Jamie Kilbane, 2 Dan Baines, 3 Rob O’Donnell, 4 Neale Patrick
5 Barney Maddison, 6 Robin Copeland, 7 Sean Dougall (Capt.), 8 Semisi Taulava.
16 Ted Stagg, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Ben Hooper, 19 Sam Dickinson
20 Tom Armes, 21 Ed Tellwright, 22 Peter Homan.
Cornish Pirates - Rotherham is never an easy place to go and the Pirates have lost on their two previous Stage One visits in the RFU Championship.
However, recording one of their best performances of the season they toppled the Titans when winning 30-13 back at the Mennaye Field at the start of November, and they can also travel with the confidence of having won their last four matches.
There are several changes from the team that featured against London Welsh last time out.
Matt Evans moves from wing to full-back in place of Rob Cook, with Grant Pointer slotting into the vacated wing berth. On the other wing, taking the place of Rhodri McAtee, is Darren Daniel, who is selected for what will be his first game in the Championship.
Tom Cooper makes a start at centre alongside Andy Short, and the half-back partnership combines Ceiron Thomas and Tom Kessell who were second half replacements against the 'Dragons'.
Kyle Marriott moves from blindside flanker to No. 8, and will captain the side, and other changes see a return to the starting line-up for flanker Chris Morgan, lock Matt Smith, and props Alan Paver and Ryan Storer.
M. Evans, D. Daniel, A. Short, T. Cooper, G. Pointer
C. Thomas, T. Kessell, K. Marriott (capt), P. Burgess, C. Morgan
I. Nimmo, M. Smith, A. Paver, D. Ward, R. Storer.
P. Andrew, T. Cowan-Dickie, C. Rimmer, B. Maidment
J. Doherty, A. Penberthy, R. McAtee.