ONLY 48 hours before Rotherham’s must-win game in the promotion play-offs against Leeds on Sunday at Headingley, the Titans have been hit by the further loss of major players to top class clubs.
Following confirmation that skipper Sam Dickinson is leaving to join Premiership club Northampton Saints, it can be revealed that four more forwards - prop Rob O’Donnell and back row stars, Semisi Taulava, top try scorer Robin Copeland and Sean Dougall - are also going from Clifton Lane at the end of the Championship season.
Premiership side, Worcester Warriors, have signed O’Donnell and Taulava, and top Irish province Munster have tapped up Dougall.
Arguably, though, the biggest loss is that of flanker Copeland, who is joining Cardiff Blues who play in the RaboDirect PRO12 league, the competition in which the best Welsh, Irish and Scottish teams appear.
Copeland, a rampaging flanker, has scored 11 tries in the league. A player of his quality will be hard to replace, but he is keen to represent Ireland in the Six Nations, so a move to a club where he will be noticed is inevitable, and one which he was advised to make by coach Andre Bester.
Clearly, Rotherham’s coach is disappointed, but by signing the Titans’ best forwards, it shows that Bester is developing players who in recent years have gone to play for England, such as Hendre Fourie and David Strettle.
Young players with potential are, therefore, attracted to Rotherham because they know that in two or three years, if they make progress, they will be signed at far bigger salaries by top clubs.
Bester has drawn up a list of players he fancies although it is understood that promising players in National One and the Championship will be brought in.
There is also speculation that Rotherham’s former fly half, Michael Whitehead, may return as backs’ coach.
Meanwhile, Bester has made two changes to the squad to face Leeds: winger Peter Homan joins the 22 as does O’Donnell for a clash that Titans must win, having lost to Bedford, if they are to have a chance of reaching the play-off semi-finals.