Three of Rotherham’s players who are from Northern Ireland make the Titans’ starting line-up for this evening’s clash in Belfast against Ulster Ravens in the British and Irish Cup.
Fly half James McKinney and forwards Ali Birch and Adam Macklin are all set to play influential roles against their former club in a side which shows six changes from the team that beat Aberavon a week ago.
A win for the Titans, who are top of Pool 2 on nine points with two wins in as many games, would give them an excellent chance of qualifying for the quarter finals of the B and I Cup. “By picking the Ulster boys in our squad, we think it will give us and them an extra edge as they will want to do well against their previous club” says coach Lee Blackett.
“We are putting out our strongest available side and what has pleased me most is that the players are taking the Cup just as seriously as the Championship.
In fact, there has been no mention of the fact that we are playing a cup game. The intensity in the competition is the same as if we were playing in the league.
“I am proud of their efforts, they have not relaxed at all and we are determined to get a result which will keep us top of the pool.” In the back line, in addition to McKinney returning in the number 10 shirt, Sean Scanlon comes back on the wing, Jack Roberts takes over again in the centre and on the left wing, James Broadley is preferred to Craig Dowsett.
The Titans’ pack is strengthened by the recall of Alex Rieder and Tom Cruse, and in a significant move bearing in mind the Championship programme resuming next month, one of the replacements is second row forward Barney Maddison who is back from a serious knee injury which stopped him playing for nine months.
“Having Barney fit again is great for him and the club and I hope to give him 15 minutes of playing time tonight. He needs game-time and after this evening he will go to Tynedale to play for a bit and then come back to Rotherham,” Blackett adds.
England U-20s’ scrum half James Mitchell, on loan from Premiership club Sale Sharks, stays with the Titans for another week
but hooker Johnny Matthews, who impressed Blackett during his performance against Aberavon, is not included in the match party of 22.
“I was delighted with the way Johnny played but it is far better for him to be playing so he returns on loan to Hull this weekend.
“This evening’s match is a difficult test for us because Ulster know that if they lose they will go out of the B and I Cup so we have to make sure we deliver,” Blackett explains.
Rotherham Titans: Hayes, Scanlon, Roberts, Davies, Broadley, McKinney, McGaffin, Williams, Cruse, Macklin, Parker, Holmes, Argyle, Birch, Rieder.
Replacements: Preece, Hislop, Tampin, Maddison, Ryan, Mitchell, Barrett.