Rotherham coach Andre Bester has recalled scrum half Joe Bedford to the starting line-up for tomorrow’s game against Cornish Pirates at Clifton Lane, the Titans’ fourth match in the promotion play-offs in the Championship.
Following last Sunday’s humiliating defeat by 67-14 in Penzance, it is not surprising that Bester is making some positional changes to the Rotherham side, currently bottom of Pool B, with only one point from three games.
Apart from seeing Bedford, whose move to Newport Gwent Dragons has been confirmed by the Welsh club, brought back in the number nine shirt in place of Matt Rhodes, Dan Baines returns as hooker after playing last weekend at number eight in the first game against Pirates.
With a small squad at his disposal, Bester has few choices available, so he is stuck with the players whose form has been so disappointing in the play-offs.
After last Sunday’s thrashing, Rotherham must restore their credibility which has been eroded since the first part of the Championship season ended.
Three successive defeats by Bedford, Doncaster and Pirates mean that the Titans’ season is finishing poorly, and with only about half a dozen players committed to remaining at Clifton Lane the pressure on Bester to recruit new signings of a decent standard is enormous.
Bester’s mission at the start of the campaign last August was to make sure that Rotherham finished in the top eight of the Championship, so that they would be participating in the league again from this autumn.
That goal has been achieved as Rotherham finished seventh in the table. But now Bester has to prove that he is capable of assembling and inspiring a new squad which can end next season in a higher position in a league that is becoming even more competitive.
Little more than 10 years ago, Rotherham were the best side in the division below the Premiership, but have since been overtaken by several clubs such as Worcester and Exeter, and now rivals Doncaster, Cornish Pirates, Bedford, Nottingham and London Welsh are superior.
In his first period at Clifton Lane from 2005-007, Bester’s teams finished fourth and second in what was then National One. His challenge next season and tomorrow in the return game against Cornish Pirates is to show that Rotherham remain a competitive force.
TITANS: Hodgson, Hunt, Welding, Du Randt, Hampsey, Socino, Bedford, Rhodes, Harris, Baines, O’Donnell, McGowan, Smidt, Burrows, Worrall, Dougall, Donneghan, Kilbane, Swatkins, McMahon, Loney, McGregor, Aikman, George.