Rotherham Titans’ Championship game this afternoon against Moseley at Clifton Lane has suddenly turned into a must-win affair as the club dropped a place in the league table and are now fifth.
Nottingham’s victory over Doncaster before Christmas earned them five points and took them to 27, five points in front of Rotherham, and importantly gained the Meadow Lane club a place in the top four at the Titans’ expense.
However, if Rotherham win today and achieve maximum points, they’ll regain their top four position.
“ The next two games, today’s and then against Doncaster at Castle Park early in the New Year, are highly significant for us and the players are fully aware of that,” explains coach Lee Blackett.
“ So this is a vital period. The players are really hungry for success and have responded well to the defeat by Yorkshire Carnegie in the British and Irish Cup.
“ We have great strength in the pack and this has made it difficult to keep players happy because they all want to play.
“ So selection has been tough for the Moseley match and I’ve had to make some difficult decisions to face a Moseley team that improves year by year.”
One of Blackett’s hardest decisions would have been to leave out from the starting XV back row forward Alex Rieder.
Rieder is one of the replacements as Blackett rotates the Rotherham back row. Irishman Will Ryan begins at number eight and is supported at the back of the scrum by flankers Alex Argyle and Ali Birch.
Skipper and second row forward Tom Holmes returns from a back injury, and the pack is also strengthened by the comeback of hooker Tom Cruse, whose injured ankle is recovered.
In the backs, scrum half Alex Davies is preferred to James Mitchell, and in the centre Lloyd Hayes regains his place now that he has recovered from a hand injury.
Hooker Cruse, coming back after four weeks on the sidelines, has no doubts as to the importance of today’s game:
“ We are playing catch-up rugby because our target is a top four finish. Our defeat in the Yorkshire derby was tough to take, so we have a point to prove against Moseley.
“Two of their players we have to keep an eye on are centres Will Owen and Greg King. Moseley are a direct side and are well coached by Kevin Maggs.”
One Rotherham player keen to make an impact this afternoon from the bench, is scrum half Dan White who is now back in action after being absent for 10 weeks with a serious back injury.
Rotherham Titans: Scanlon, Keating, Hayes, J.Davies, Wilson, McKinney, A. Davies, Hislop, Cruse, Tampin, Maddison, Holmes, Argyle, Birch, Ryan. Replacements: Preece, Gadd, Thiede, Parker,Rieder, White, Barrett.