Rotherham’s new coach, Justin Burnell,has just over a week to prepare his squad for his first major challenge-next Saturday’s Championship game at Clifton Lane against Bedford, one of the best sides in the league, and currently fourth in the table.
Burnell’s mission is clear enough: to stop the Titans, third from bottom, from being relegated, but achieving that goal will be far from easy.
He takes over a struggling side that has lost seven consecutive league games and, all told, 10 matches on the trot. So Burnell’s past experience at Cardiff Blues and London Welsh will be fully stretched at Rotherham, and given his background as a forwards’ coach the first priority will be to transform the way the Titans pack are playing.
Under normal circumstances, a re-arranged tie in the British and Irish Cup, especially one where both clubs are out of the competition already, would not be regarded as important.
However, Saturday’s game against Ealing Trailfinders is now of the utmost significance. The contest at Clifton Lane will be the first time that Burnell has had the opportunity to assess the quality of the squad at his disposal, and the players themselves will be working flat out to impress the new coach.
A victory is essential considering the need to restore confidence with Bedford the next challenge only a week away.
At Burnell’s first training session on Tuesday, the day after his predecessor Mark Jones had departed, he briefly met the players, but at today’s training, Rotherham’s new coach, who’s used to coping with adversity following his nightmare with London Welsh, will be keen to outline his plans to secure the Titans’ survival.
One major weakness, apart from ill-discipline, that needs addressing is how to increase the number of tries the team score; as an attacking unit Rotherham are sadly lacking having scored only 29 tries in 16 Championship games- the second lowest in the league.
That inadequate return goes a long way to explaining why the Titans are struggling to compete and why Jones is no longer the coach and why Rotherham are employing another Welshman who promises to be a lot tougher than his fellow countryman.
One of the big advantages of Burnell’s appointment is that he has coached in the Championship, knows that clubs need a powerful and match winning set of forwards and he understands how to make progress in a highly competitive, professional league.