Rotherham Titans’ schedule of games this month, four in the Championship and a quarter-final tie in the British and Irish Cup against Leinster, will go a long way to determine whether this season is going to be a success.
Following consecutive defeats at Clifton Lane, the character and the skill of the squad are under scrutiny as coach Lee Blackett prepares for the challenges against Doncaster Knights on Sunday and then over the next two weeks against Nottingham and Bedford, both at home.
So with the advantage of playing at Clifton Lane, Rotherham have the opportunity of regaining a place in the top four of the league, and will take a significant step forward towards achieving that if they win the South Yorkshire derby.
Fifth-placed Titans are aiming for a fifth successive Championship victory over Knights, whose alarming drop in league has been them los their last six games. They have not scored a try in the Championship in almost four hours of playing time since scrum half Bruno Bravo scored against Moseley in mid-November.
However, current form is never a guide to the likely outcome of a derby and overall since Rotherham and Doncaster have been fighting each other in league rugby since 2005, the Castle Park club have the better record-13 wins to seven.
Sunday’s derby sees players from both clubs, who were once in the same side, now competing as opponents: for example at Rotherham, winger Michael Keating and prop Lewis Thiede both played for Doncaster, and in the Castle Park team, two prominent forwards, Matt Challinor and Colin Quigley, were popular figures at Clifton Lane.
Challinor was present on Boxing Day to watch Moseley beat Rotherham and will have reported back on the weakness of the Titans who struggle to defend rolling mauls close to their line after a line out.
As the derby is being broadcast live on Sky with a 12.45 kick off both clubs have a the chance to promote themselves and the decent standard of rugby that the Championship provides.