More than a dozen new signings will make their league debuts for Rotherham at London Scottish on Sunday when the Titans’ new Championship season starts.
In what will be yet another tough campaign for Rotherham because the league becomes harder and increasingly professional each season at the level below the Premiership, the sole aim of coach Andre Bester is to ensure that the Titans are competitive enough to again reach the promotion play-offs.
His squad, which contains at least 20 new recruits and little more than half a dozen players from last season, faces a London Scottish team which has also been strengthened since it won National One last season.
And with home advantage at the Athletic Ground in Richmond, the newly promoted club, well organised on and off the field, will present Rotherham with a most difficult challenge.
However, one of the major figures in Rotherham’s pack, Tongan Semisi Taulava, along with other new signings, such as forwards Robin Copeland, Adrian Griffiths and Neale Patrick, should produce the fiery performance which Bester demands, and, therefore, remind London Scottish that the standard in the Championship is far higher than the level they have left behind.
Similarly, Rotherham’s backs show several new faces: full back Garry Law from the Scottish Borders, Irish wing/centre Shane Monahan and centre Steve Hamilton, joining from Nottingham, are predicted to make a big impact.
With the departure of Juan Pablo Socino, last season’s top points’ scorer, a heavy responsibility is taken on by Law who becomes Rotherham’s principal goal kicker, but South African fly half Cliffie Hodgson may share the kicking duties.
Bester will not announce his squad until lunchtime today, so it remains uncertain whether prop Rob O’Donnell, one of the best in the Championship, will have fully recovered from a leg injury, but forward Sam Dickinson, back in training, and making good progress after breaking his arm, will not be available until October.
As he prepares his squad for Bester is eager to praise their personal characteristics:
“I’ve recruited outstanding people who have the right qualities to fight when our backs are against the wall. Several of them have been written off, but they have come to Rotherham and are resolved to do well.
“We’ve done well in our pre-season games and are miles ahead of where we were two weeks ago.
“Critics of Rotherham say that we are too orientated towards the forwards, but I say that if we have to run every ball we will, and if we need to run little ball, we will. Whatever we need to do to win a game, will dictate our style of play.
“London Scottish are strong and professional, have a solid backline and will have their tails up at home, but I am happy with the quality in our squad.”
probable: Law, Monahan, Hamilton, Godfrey, Kirwan, Hodgson, Rhodes, Harris, Baines, Cahill, Patrick, Griffiths, Copeland, Dougall, Taulava, Williams, Foden, Marshall, Nonu, Kilbane, Noonan, Stagg, Vaioleti, Maddison, O’Donnell.