Rugby Union: Blackett warns Titans about experience of Connacht

Lloyd Hayes will return to the Titans team tomorrow.
Lloyd Hayes will return to the Titans team tomorrow.
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Rotherham Titans, already enjoying success in the Championship, can take a big step towards confirming a place in the quarter finals of the British and Irish Cup by beating Connacht at Clifton Lane tomorrow.

Top of Pool Three with three wins out of four and on 11 points, Rotherham should be confident of winning at home but coach Lee Blackett warned: “Connacht are a dangerous team with many good players. Six of their starting line-up have played in the Heineken Cup and in addition to that four have played in the league involving the best Welsh, Scottish and Irish clubs.

“Thirteen of their 15 have also appeared for Ireland in representative games, so we are facing a decent side.”

Blackett has chosen to rest a few players who took part in the league victory against Cornish Pirates a week ago, so three-quarter Michael Keating, who has played in all Rotherham’s 16 games in the Championship and B and I Cup, is given the weekend off.

Keating’s absence means an opportunity for Lloyd Hayes who starts at full back and takes over the goal kicking responsibilities from Juan Pablo Socino, one of the replacements.

In the pack, Alfie To’oala, who was not picked for the squad in the last two league games against Bedford and Pirates, returns as a flanker and forms a strong back row alongside Ali Birch and Laurence Pearce.

In the front row of the Titans’ scrum, prop Toby Williams, impressive when he has come on as a second half replacement in recent matches, is rewarded with a place from the kick-off and joins Ben Sowrey and Mark Tampin in the battle against a powerful Connacht pack.

If tomorrow’s clash is similar to the first game against Connacht in October, the contest will be close; a last minute penalty produced a narrow win for the Irishmen by 27 points to 25.

On the injury front, skipper and scrum half Charlie Mulchrone is still suffering from a painful shoulder but hopes to be fit for the Championship game in Jersey in two weeks.

Prop Colin Quigley who is out with a calf injury should also be back for the trip to the Channel Isles.

As regards, club skipper Garry Law, injured all season with a serious thigh problem, it is still too soon to say clearly when he will resume playing, but possibly in three weeks.

* Rotherham Titans: Hayes, Broadley, Gill, Roberts, Wilson, Murphy, White, Williams, Sowrey, Tampin, Maddison, Sanderson, To’oala, Birch, Pearce. Replacements: Cruse, Dias, Stout, Rieder, Preece, Socino, Scanlon.