Under-strength Rotherham Titans faces stiff challenge at Bedford Blues

Rotherham Titans Head Coach Justin Burnell. Picture Scott Merrylees
Rotherham Titans Head Coach Justin Burnell. Picture Scott Merrylees
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As Rotherham coach Justin Burnell prepares his squad for the sixth Championship game of the campaign at Bedford on Friday- it’s expected that the Titans will once again be understrength because of injuries.

So as against Yorkshire Carnegie last Saturday, Burnell’s forwards may well be competing against a Bedford pack that is much more experienced in what has become a most demanding league.

It looks as if new number eight Tom MacDonald will continue to stand in for Buster Lawrence who has injured an ankle which is a heavy blow to Rotherham because Lawrence is a hardened battler having played in the Championship for Moseley. So while Burnell will be unable to select his first choice pack to take on Bedford who, surprisingly, are 11th in the league with only one win in five, he has, in my opinion, two of the best backs of any side in the league.

Welshman Will Thomas, new to professional rugby at this level, has taken to the Championship as if he had been playing there for several seasons.

Whether he plays at full back or on the wing, in his games against London Scottish, Richmond and Yorkshire Carnegie, Thomas has shown genuine class, pace and the ability to grasp try scoring opportunities.

He’s an exciting player with the ball in hand and so is Will Goodwin and it doesn’t seem to matter if he’s chosen at fly half or in the number 15 shirt.

Like Thomas, Goodwin, in his second season at the Titans, has speed and a side step that can baffle opponents and like his Welsh team mate, he should be a player that Rotherham must keep for at least one more season.

Both Titans are natural match winners in a side still to make an impact in the league and one in which the forwards have yet to produce penetration.

Winning on a Friday at Goldington Road would be a huge achievement, especially now that Bedford’s confidence has grown following their first win of the season-last Saturday’s 34-14 victory against bottom club Richmond.

The big, wide pitch at Bedford has often suited Rotherham’s backs on previous occasions and considering that centres Will Owen and Joe Barker are developing a proper understanding, the game may turn into a high scoring contest against an opposition that likes to attack from deep.

Going down to Bedford, Rotherham are ninth in the Championship and on 10 points with a record of two wins and three defeats.