RFU Championship News

Friday 10th

RFU Championship News


RFU Championship News
Plus Semi Final 2nd Legs Teams & Previews

Plus news and comment from around the clubs and what the papers say.

Friday 10th May 2013
Nottingham v Bedford 20:00

Sunday 12th May 2013
Newcastle v Leeds Carnegie13:15

Procedure If Scores Tied At Full Time.

If in the second match, after 40 minutes of play each way the aggregate scores from both matches in the Semi-Final are level, after an interval of 5 minutes there shall be a period of extra time between the teams of 10 minutes each way, with a one minute interval and the team with the higher aggregate score at the end of this period shall be the winner.

Should the scores remain equal, the team with the higher aggregate number of tries in the two matches in the Championship Semi-Final (including extra time) shall be determined the winner of that Championship Semi-Final.

Should the aggregate score and number of tries by each team in a Championship Semi-Final (including extra time) be equal then there shall be a place kick competition determine the winner of that Championship Semi-Final.

Nottingham v Bedford Blues - Friday 20:00

NottinghamBedford BluesNottingham v Bedford 
Meadow Lane
Friday 10 May
Kick Off 8pm

Live On RFU TV
Twitter @RFUChampionship 


Nottingham centre Tim Streather returns from injury in tonight’s play-off semi-final second leg at Meadow Lane.

Nottingham centre Tim StreatherStreather, shortlisted for the RPA Championship Player of the Year Award, replaces Andy Forsyth at outside centre and is the only change to the side after the first leg at Goldington Road.

Nottingham need to over-turn a nine-point deficit in the return tie to earn a place in the play-off final and the Green and Whites head coach Martin Haag is upbeat despite the opening defeat. “We have already moved on and we are excited about the challenge that is coming up,” Haag said.

“We know where we are and where we need to be at the end of 80 minutes and we will go for it. "We know we can play a lot better and if our performance is right I think we will win the game, and if it's where it needs to be we'll get more than the nine points we need.

“It is all to play for and Bedford will be thinking the same thing.”

head coach Martin HaagHaag said his side will draw confidence from their home form, having lost just two league games at Meadow Lane this term, Along the way they registered big wins against London Scottish (54-9), Jersey (48-16) and an historic 63-7 triumph over Bristol.

Their last victory against Cornish Pirates at Meadow Lane secured a second place league finish – the club’s highest in 21 years – three points and one place above the Blues.

“At home we have scored a lot of tries and we are not overly worried about what deficit we need to overturn,” said Haag.

"We've got lots of attacking threats and we've got a good defensive game as well, we need to take that all out onto the field on Friday night. We've got to trust ourselves, we've got to back ourselves and believe in all of the work we have done to this point.”

Nottingham Rugby:
15 David Jackson 14 Alex Lewington 13 Tim Streather 12 Joe Munro
11 Rhys Crane 10 James Arlidge 9 Sean Romans
1 Matt Parr 2 Joe Duffey 3 Michael Holford 4 Dan Montagu
5 Nic Rouse 6 Rupert Cooper 7 Brent Wilson 8 Alex Shaw.

16 Shaun Malton 17 Ryan Bower 18 Tom Price 19 Tom Calladine
20 Harrison Lee-Everton 21 Rory Lynn 22 Andy Forsyth

Bedford Blues

Bedford Blues head to Nottingham tonight with a precious nine point advantage over the hosts.

Bedford are selecting from an almost fully fit squad but Director of Rugby Mike Rayer is sticking with the old adage that ‘if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’ as he names the same 22-man squad as the one which picked up the important 26-17 win at Goldington Road last Saturday,

Bedford Blues:
15. Ben Ransom 14. James Stephenson 13. Brendan Burke 12. Mark Atkinson
11. James Short 10. Myles Dorrian 9. Luke Baldwin
1. Darren Fearn 2. Neil Cochrane 3. Dan Seal 4. Mike Howard
5. Paul Tupai 6. Gregor Gillanders 7. Darren Fox (c) 8. Nick Fenton-Wells

16. Scott Spurling, 17. Phil Boulton, 18. Ben Gulliver, 19. Don Barrell,
20. Darryl Veenendaal, 21. Jake Sharp 22. Ollie Dodge

What The Papers Say

Nottingham Post: Nottingham Rugby Ready To Make History Says Haag

MARTIN Haag will send his players out with one simple message tonight: "Go make history."

"I'm not going to say much to the guys – I won't need to," said Haag. "They aren't going to need a lot of words to get them going; they will already be up for it.

"I'll tell them they've got a chance to do something very special and these nights don't come around very often so make the most of it and don't have any regrets."

Full Story www.thisisnottingham.co.uk

Newcastle Falcons v Leeds Carnegie - Monday 13:15

Newcastle FalconsLeeds CarnegieNewcastle v Leeds Carnegie   
Kingston Park
Sunday 12 May
Kick Off 1:15pm

Live On SKY TV


Newcastle Falcons

Falcons are unchanged for Sunday’s  second leg clash with Leeds Carnegie at Kingston Park as Dean Richards’ men look to overturn a five point aggregate deficit

Dean RichardsFalcons boss Richards has given his troops the chance to put things right in front of what is expected to be a healthy crowd on Tyneside.

“The support has been fantastic throughout the season, and on Sunday they can play their part in what is a crucial game for the club,” Richards told Falcons TV.

“The crowd has been getting bigger and bigger throughout the week as interest for the match has grown through the media,” he added.

Reflecting on the Bank Holiday Monday loss, Richards said: “I was disappointed, frustrated and angrier if anything because we didn’t go out and play the way that we said we were going to play, and it cost us dearly.

“Disappointment is something that you can contain and work on, but you have to earn the right to be disappointed and the boys were angry with themselves for not performing.

“What we can’t do now is wallow in self-pity.”

Stunned by Leeds’ late show, Richards admits his troops have responded well in training throughout the week.

Richards said: “The boys have trained well this week, and we have looked at the bits and pieces that needed addressing, and we have worked on them.

“Hopefully we can get the result that we want this weekend.”

Newcastle Falcons:
15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Tane Tu’ipulotu
11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Warren Fury
1 Jonny Golding, 2 Michael Mayhew, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Scott MacLeod
5 James Hudson, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg

16 Rob Vickers, 17 Scott Wilson, 18 Carlo del Fava, 19 Richard Mayhew
20 Chris Pilgrim, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 Jamie Helleur

Leeds Carnegie

Leeds Carnegie Head Coach Diccon Edwards has made four changes to his side to face Newcastle Falcons.

Leeds Carnegie lead 24-19 after the first leg on Monday but will be without Matt Smith who has not recovered from a hip injury picked up in the first half on Monday. Pierce Phillips, who has only previously started in the British and Irish Cup, comes into the starting line up this week.

The other three changes are rotations within the squad. Scrum half James Doherty, prop Ben Harris and back row Ryan Burrows all start this week in place of Craig Hampson, Lee Imiolek and Chris Walker respectively.

Richard Beck returns to action for Leeds Carnegie having been out with a shoulder injury since early December.

Leeds Carnegie
15. Steve McColl 14. Oli Goss 13. Josh Griffin 12. Fred Burdon
11. David Doherty 10. Joe Ford 9. James Doherty
1. Ben Harris 2. Scott Freer 3. Damien Tussac 4. Calum Green
5. Pierce Phillips 6. Rob Baldwin 7. Jacob Rowan (c) 8. Ryan Burrows

16. Phil Nilsen 17. Lee Imiolek 18. James Currie 19. Richard Beck
20. Chris Walker 21. Craig Hampson 22. Christian Georgiou

What The Papers Say

Yorkshire Evening Post:- Baldwin's Targeting A Repeat Show Against The Falcons

Leeds Carnegie’s landmark victory over Newcastle Falcons on Monday provided another significant feather in the cap for one of their unheralded stars of the season – Rob Baldwin.

The 27-year-old back-row forward from Keighley began his season in the amateur rugby of National One, as captain of Wharfedale, not even daring to dream that he would end the season playing for a place in the Premiership.

But Leeds head coach Diccon Edwards had seen enough of him at third-tier level to believe he would be able to make the step up to the competitive environment of full-time rugby at Carnegie.

And now, eight months on, the former amateur is three more wins away from helping his team reach the highest level of English rugby.

Full Story www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk

News From Around The Clubs This Week

Bedford Blues - From The Papers

Michael Hann, Bedford Today:- Rayer Hails Double Capture.

Bedford BluesBedford director of rugby Mike Rayer is pleased with the way in which his squad is coming along for the 2013-14 season.

Last week the Blues added 21-year-old hooker Charlie Clare from Leicester Tigers and prolific winger Neville Edwards from Rosslyn Park to their side.

And Rayer is already looking forward to working with his new signings.

He said: “They are both hungry young men and the pleasing thing at the moment is that it is not all about money with these players we’ve signed. It is about the opportunity to come and play in an environment like this and improve and add real value.”

Full Story www.bedfordtoday.co.uk

Cornish Pirates

Cornish Pirates2 Second-Row Signings For Cornish Pirates

The Cornish Pirates have added two second-row forwards, James Sandford and Will Graulich to next season’s squad

James Sandford, aged 24, joins from London Irish, having previously played for Ulster and Rotherham Titans.

James Sandford

A former Irish Schools captain who in 2006-07 was the Northern Bank Schools player of the year, he has also played for Ireland under 20s.

The big Irishman is described as someone who has an outstanding work rate and is very physical player about the park.

Will Graulich20 yr old Will Graulich has considerable potential and joins from Gloucester where he has played for the Cherry & Whites in the LV= Cup and against Fiji.

A former England under 16s 'A' team captain, this season he has had valuable game time with the Hartpury College side.

“James is known to us having played against us for Rotherham back in 2010 and I actually recommended him to Toby Booth as a player to ‘keep an eye on’ so it is great he will now be pulling on a Pirates shirt” said Pirates' head coach Ian Davies.

“Will comes highly recommended by Alex Brown at Gloucester Rugby and obviously Alex knows a thing or two about playing in the second row!

Will is a young player with enormous potential and it is our job to make sure he is given the platform to fully reach it”.

Leeds Carnegie

Leeds CarnegieLeeds Rhinos And Leeds Carnegie Academies Strengthen Links

Leeds Rhinos and Leeds Carnegie have strengthened the links between the two junior development departments with four union players set to have a spell in the thirteen man code with the Rhinos during the off season.

Scrum half Matt Dudman has already been training with Rhinos Under 19s side for a number of weeks but he has now been joined by back rower Dan Grange, centre Josh Walters and winger Nick Rawsthorne. The four players will spend varying amounts of time training with the Rhinos during the off season and beyond in the case of Walters.

Leeds Carnegie Academy Manager Mark Luffman commented, “Dan Grange is going to do a couple of months before starting the Rugby Union off season with Carnegie and then starting his studies at Leeds Met. Josh Walters is also going to Leeds Met but it is planned he is going to play the rest of this season and all of next season with the Rhinos U19s with a view to him coming back in to the Union fold the year after that.

Nick played both codes before going to Prince Henrys for sixth form. Prior to that he attended Brooksbank School where he won the Champions Schools Final in league. He will complete his studies at Prince Henrys next year and will be involved with the Carnegie academy and Prince Henrys next season.

“Earlier this season, Scott Lee and Ash Handley from the Rhinos played for the Carnegie Under 18s as part of their development.

It is important that we give young players the opportunity to develop and learn new skills. We have a unique opportunity here at Leeds Rugby and by working with my opposite number Barrie McDermott we have been able to spot players who will benefit from the chances we are uniquely able to offer them.

Simon Bell now looks after the welfare side of things for both academies which makes sure the players best interests are always at the heart of our decisions,” added Luffman.

Leeds will field a dual code team in the Oxford University Sevens this weekend made up of Academy players from both clubs as part of the process of working closer together.

Newcastle Falcons - From The Papers

Mark Smith, The Journal:- Richards Says New Boys Will Give Falcons More Know-How

Newcastle FalconsDEAN Richards believes his spate of new signings will give Newcastle Falcons the experience they need for next season.

Just what league they are playing in by then remains to be confirmed.

“Experience is one of the things we were after, and we feel we have got that balance with the signings we have announced so far,” said Richards, whose last wave of new arrivals consisted of Scottish duo Phil Godman, Scott Lawson and Fraser McKenzie.

Full Story www.journallive.co.uk


NottinghamSavage and Montagu commit to Nottingham Rugby

Nottingham have received a major boost ahead of their play-off semi-final second leg with star back Andrew Savage and versatile forward Dan Montagu committing their futures to the club.

Savage, 26, who is among the most capped active Green and Whites players with 147 appearances since 2006, has scored nine tries in 17 games this term.

Montagu, 29, has impressed on his return to Meadow Lane this season by reinventing himself in the second row. The Australian, who made his name as a barnstorming No. 8 in his first spell with the East Midlands club before moving to Bristol, has made 28 appearances in all competitions this season and 109 games in total for the club.

Nottingham head coach Martin Haag said the experienced pair will have major roles to play next season.

“I’m delighted that they have both signed as it is important for the continuity of the club and team - I look forward to seeing them continue to put that Nottingham jersey on,” Haag said.

“They have been integral to the success of this club this season and are hungry for more. “Both have demonstrated that they are quality players and as this club moves forward they can become leaders of this team.

“It is important that they pass on their extensive knowledge about Nottingham Rugby and share the ethos and culture that we are trying to develop.”

Montagu, who played 81 games in his first three years spell with Nottingham, said: “I’ve always enjoyed playing here and I want stay on and help push this club forward.

“We have had a great season and it is not done yet – I have a lot more than just another year at Meadow Lane to look forward to right now. With Martin Haag coming on board for another two years it was an easy decision to make – he has come in and put this club in the right place and got us playing good rugby under his leadership.”

Andrew SavageSavage, who is intent on returning from injury for the play-off final if Nottingham are successful tonight, said: “I’m excited to stay on to work under Martin and (backs coach) Ben Johnston who really emphasise playing a brand of rugby that I like and I want to be part of it going forward.

“I’m happy with the season I’ve had from the very start, I’ve felt fitter, I’ve worked hard with fitness and conditioning coach Jo Brun and we are playing a system of rugby that suits me down to the ground.

“I’m happy with the season that I’ve had personally and as a team and I’m looking forward to kicking on with Nottingham.”

Plymouth Albion

Plymouth AlbionPlymouth Albion Backs Tom Bowen And Louis Messer Sign New Deals

20 year old Bowen, who joined Albion last summer from Leicester, has made a big impression in his first season at the club.

Bowen made 18 Championship appearances and finished the season as the third highest try scorer with 6 touchdowns.

Bowen, who frightens defences with his sheer pace, recently picked up the Albion supporters best young player of the season award.

24 year old Messer, another who joined Albion last summer, quickly made the full back berth his own before suffering a serious knee injury.

Messer damaged his ACL in his second appearance for the club and surgery put him out for most of the season. After extensive rehabilitation Messer made it back onto the field for Albion’s last two games of the season.

Commenting on the new contracts Albion’s CEO Debbie Fisher said, “Tom Bowen is such a promising young player and a second season of Championship will really help his development.

We are really pleased that Louis Messer has accepted a new contract with Albion. Having been injured for a large part of last season, we are keen to see Louis reach his full potential in the next campaign.”

Fly half Declan Cusack and lock Harrison Tovey have signed one year deals to extend their stays at Brickfields.

Albion signed 24 year Cusack from Spanish side Bizkaia Gernika just before transfer deadline day, and the Irishman made a big impression in the closing weeks of the season, when he featured in the last six matches.

Cusack, who previously had three seasons with Munster, can also play full back and he is crucially a front line goal kicker.

24 year old Tovey who joined Albion last summer from Clifton is primarily a lock, but can also play in the back row.

Tovey who stands 6’ 4”, played 14 Championship matches for Albion last season and is seen as a player with real potential.

So far Irish back rower Eoghan Grace is the only new signing Albion have confirmed, but the club will be announcing a number of other new signings over the next few weeks.

Rotherham Titans

Rotherham Titans A Busy Week For Titans As They Announce A Raft Of Signings

Ali Birch - Openside Flanker. Jamie Broadley - Centre
Tom Cruse - Hooker.  Lloyd Hayes – Centre
Michael Keating - Full Back / Wing. Dallan Murphy - Fly Half
Jack Preece  - Back Row Forward. Colin Quigley – TH Prop
Mark Tampin - TH Prop. Juan Pablo Socino - Inside Centre
Ben Sowery - Hooker.  Dan White - Scrum Half.

Juan Pablo Socino returns to Clifton Lane

Former Titan Juan Pablo Socino has agreed terms, which will see him return to Clifton Lane for the 2013-14 RFU Championship season.

The capture of Socino is regarded as a marquee signing for the Titans, with the Buenos Aires-born 24 year-old expected to have a huge impact in the Championship.

Socino is the record point’s scorer in a season for the Titans with his haul of 278 points in the 2010-11 season. The following year he moved to Nottingham where he was included in that season’s Championship dream team.

Titans Head Coach Lee Blackett, said, “We’ve made a number of signings and I consider the signing of Juan Pablo to be a massive one for the club, he’s a player who has the X-Factor! Juan sees the way we want to play the game and how we’ve developed a certain style and he wants to be involved in that and we have given him the opportunity to come back to England.

“As soon has his name came up we acted very quickly to secure the deal and that showed Juan how much we regarded him and how much we wanted him to return to Clifton Lane. We also acted quickly because once it would have become common knowledge Juan was available, we would have been fighting with a whole host of other clubs to sign him.”

Former Queensland Reds fly half Dallan Murphy has penned a deal with Rotherham for the 2013-14 season.

Twenty four year-old Murphy has 4 caps to his name and was described by Reds coach Ewen McKenzie as, “Our next-best ball-player outside Quade Cooper."

Dallan has played most of his rugby in Brisbane for Brothers Rugby Club and Queensland A, and at just under 6 foot and 90kg’s, he will have the physicality to complement his dynamic and exciting running game.

 “Dallan is a high quality fly half; unfortunately for him when he was in the Super 15 squad at Queensland Reds he was behind Quade Cooper and there’s not many 10’s that are going to get in ahead of him. We are very excited about what Dallan can bring to the Rotherham set-up. Said Titans Head Coach Lee Blackett,

“We understand with him coming into a new environment he may need a little time to settle into different ways. We know Dallan is an attacking ten, he’s someone we’re bringing in because of our game plan and how we want to approach games and he will take the gain line on and cause a real threat to opposition.

“Dallan is English qualified through his grandparents and he’s extremely keen to come over here and show everybody what he can do. He’s very ambitious, he wants to play at the highest level he can and ultimately he wants to compete in the Premiership.

“He’s an intelligent guy and he’s a 10 that plays what he sees in front of him and if he sees that it’s on from deep inside his own half, he will go.” Added Blackett

Irish pair Michael Keating and Ali Birch join Titans for 2013-14.

Michael Keating joins the Titans from local rivals Doncaster Knights and can play either on the wing or at full back. Keating arrives with a fine pedigree having represented Ireland at U20 level on ten occasions and Leinster U20’s on four occasions. Keating has also represented the province 10 times in the British & Irish Cup and has made four appearances for them in the Magners League.

The 23 years-old 6’ 1” speedster weighs in at 94kg’s which will make him a real powerhouse in the Titans back line next term. Titans Lee Blackett sees Keating as a star attraction and believes he’ll make a huge impact at Clifton Lane

After a number of seasons in the Ulster Academy, Ali Birch was handed a full contract in 2012. At 24 years of age and with 10 Ulster caps to his name, Ali’s signing is seen as a bit of a coup.

Birch has demonstrated impressive club form for Dungannon and also stood out for the Ulster Ravens on many occasions. He made his competitive debut for Ulster Rugby in the 2010 Magners League clash with Connacht.

Birch, whose preference is to play at openside flanker combines an excellent work rate with sheer speed as he causes chaos around the park; his ball carrying ability and ferocity at ruck time will be a big bonus for the Titans next season.

Blackett is particularly pleased to have captured Birch and said, “Ali’s best position is probably at seven, but he has played across the whole back row at Ulster, which tells you a lot about the calibre of player we are getting.

James McKinney knows Ali well and he regards him very highly; when we mentioned Ali, James told us we would be getting an outstanding rugby player and when a fellow team mate says that about someone you start looking very closely at the individual and we know we are getting an outstanding back row player in Ali Birch.”

2 Hookers, 2 Centres And a Scrum Half

Hookers Ben Sowery and Tom Cruse, centres Lloyd Hayes and Jamie Broadley and scrum half Dan White have all penned deals which will make sure there is plenty of competition within the Titans squad next season.

Ben Sowery joins the Titans having made the short journey up the M18 from Doncaster Knights. The 22 years-old has had spells at Wharfedale, Harrogate and at Leeds Carnegie Academy, whilst he has gained representative honours for England U18, North of England U20 & Yorkshire U17, U18 and U20.

At 6’ and weighing 103kg, Sowery will bring a physical presence to the group; this combined with his skill levels ensures the Titans are getting a quality Championship performer.

Tom Cruse, also a hooker, will provide stiff competition for the number 2 jersey at Rotherham next season. Cruse, 24, spent time at the Sale Sharks Academy where he gained some limited LV= Cup experience. He’s also played for Macclesfield and his home-town club Stockport.

Commenting on the two hookers, Titans Head Coach Lee Blackett said, “I think with bringing Ben and Tom in it shows the way we are moving forward. Ben and Tom are two young hookers who are desperate to be with us here; they are Northern lads that hopefully will be around the club for a number of years and more importantly they fit into our game plan.

They are both very dynamic around the field; they offer themselves very effectively in terms of carrying the ball and in their defensive work.

Centre Lloyd Hayes is an exciting signing from Chester and one that Titans supporters may remember from last season. Lloyd had a trial spell at Clifton Lane in February and as a result started in the Titans home B&I Cup match against Aberavon, scoring a try in Titans 49-7 victory.

Hayes, who hails from Sychdyn, Flintshire in North-East Wales has just enjoyed a successful season at Chester; helping them to win National Division 3 North and scoring a remarkable 30 tries in the season. Hayes was also extremely successful with the boot, adding a further 245 points, bringing his seasons haul to a lofty 395!

Centre Jamie Broadley arrives at the club from near-neighbours Sheffield Tigers and brings with him a terrific reputation of a try-scoring centre.

Jamie has scored 26 league tries for the Tigers this term and the former Harrogate man who stands at just under 6 foot and weighs 15 stone, is expected to make his mark in next season’s Championship.

Bringing up the quintet is scrum half Dan White. Born in Hull, the twenty-four years-old came to prominence after been spotted by former Leeds boss Stuart Lancaster who offered him an Academy contract in 2007.

Dan joined Leeds Carnegie from Hull RUFC and he was part of the England U18 squad who toured Australia in the summer of 2007. He’s had loan spells with Nottingham, Sedgley Park, Harrogate and Otley.

Dan made his Leeds debut in the 2008-09 season at Championship level. During his time at Leeds Dan gained valuable experience as he figured in their LV= Cup and Aviva Premiership campaigns, whilst also gaining representative honours for England at U20 level.

His last season at Leeds was the 2011-12 campaign where he featured eight times. Dan spent last season with his home-town club Hull RUFC in National League 2 North.

Three Further Additions To The Pack

The new additions are two tight head props and a back row player who can also cover the hooker position, bringing the total of confirmed signings for next season to 26, including Head Coach Lee Blackett.

The first player announced was  Colin Quigley. Colin spent two seasons at the Lane between September 2009 and February 2011; making 38 appearances and scoring two tries, with one of those coming on his debut away at Coventry.

Thirty one years-old Quigley spent last season plying his trade at London Scottish, although he has had spells at Moseley, Otley and Doncaster Knights among others.

Titans Head Coach Lee Blackett, commenting on Quigley’s arrival said, “I’m really pleased that Colin has returned to the club. What we get with Colin is a tremendous amount of experience; he’s been around a number of clubs and when he’s on, he’s as good a tight head as there is in the division.”

Vying for the same tight head berth will be Mark Tampin; who the club has brought in from Wharfedale. Twenty one years-old Tampin weighs in at 17 stones which will ensure he brings a degree of physicality to the Titans front row. However, his ability in the loose and his technical ability at scrum time, means Rotherham are getting much more than a lump of beef.

Tampin joined Leeds Carnegie in 2010 and was promoted to the first team squad ahead of the 2010-11 season. He made his debut in the British and Irish Cup against the Titans and made a further appearance against Doncaster in the same competition. Tampin spent much of last term out on loan with Wharfedale.

Lee Blackett sees Tampin as figuring prominently in the Titans set-up next season, as he explained, “I know Mark from my time at Leeds and I was surprised he didn’t get more game time than he did up there, particularly as he’s one of the best technical scrimmages in the division.

I spoke to Tommy McGee who’s doing the scrum coaching at Leeds and he highly recommends Mark; Tommy believes Mark will come here and push for the number one tight head spot.

Bringing up the rear of the trio of new arrivals is 23 yr-old back row forward Jack Preece. Preece secured a central contract for the England Sevens squad in 2012-13. He also captained Birmingham & Solihull in National One in 2011-12 after which his five-year connection with the Bees ended.

He had become their players’ player of the year for the second time in succession and figured in more than 100 senior games after joining the club at the age of 17 and becoming the youngest National One try scorer.

Preece switched to hooker in 2011-12 to further his career but injury intervened. In January this year, he played his first match in ten months for Cinderford after snapping the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, whilst playing for England Sevens in Moscow.

Blackett is particularly pleased with the acquisition of Preece, as he explained, “Jack will be joining us as an out-and-out seven, but he has the ability to cover the hooker position. So if during the season we pick up some injuries at hooker, we know Jack won’t let us down if we put him in there.

“In Jack I believe we are getting the best open side on the floor at stealing ball in the division, I have no doubt about that whatsoever, he is the best. Jack could have gone elsewhere but he’s chosen Rotherham because of the good things he’s heard about the club and he’s another one who’s desperate to come here and show people what he can do.”

Blackett Explains Where Titans Are In Terms Of Recruitment.

“We are not too far off with our recruitment now; we’ll probably bring in one more back, but we know where games are won and lost and that’s up front. We need to make sure we get the right balance with our pack and I think bringing Colin and Mark in shows we are going in the right direction.

“As a club we pride ourselves on our scrum; just because I’m a back it doesn’t mean I don’t understand that. We will have a massive focus on our scrum; it’s what Rotherham packs do. It’s what Rotherham packs have done for the last 15 years and we are aware of how vital it is that we get that aspect of our game right, in order for us to gain first phase ball.”

 “I think with bringing Juan Pablo in at the start of the week and now with two more exciting backs in Michael Keating and Dallan Murphy, we are starting to see a very good and exciting back line develop.

Then obviously Ali’s coming here with a big reputation and he will add significantly to our forwards and we are also expecting huge things from him as well. So, all-in-all I hope our supporters are every bit as excited about next season as I am.”