Toby gets call for Titans’ big game at Abbeydale

Rotherham Titans
Rotherham Titans
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Prop Toby Williams, one of Rotherham’s most impressive younger forwards, is rewarded for his recent top form by being picked from the start to face Bristol tonight.

He will be in the Titans’ biggest game for more than a decade, at Abbeydale in the second leg of the promotion play-offs.

Williams, who joined Rotherham last summer from West Yorkshire club Otley, has played with force and aggression in his last two games as a replacement.

Now his efforts have been recognised by coach Lee Blackett.

He goes into the fixture as Rotherham, only three points behind (17-14) from the first leg, try to cause a massive upset by beating the promotion favourites.

Williams for Robin Hislop in the front row is the only change to the side that lost narrowly at Bristol.

By contrast, Bristol have made five changes.

The most significant is the debut of one of the outstanding figures in British rugby-number eight Ryan Jones, the former Wales captain, capped 75 times and also three times by the British and Irish Lions in 2005.

Jones,33, who first played for Wales in 2004 and was last capped in 2013, skippered his country in a record 33 matches.

Bristol announced in March that they had signed the ex-Wales captain who has agreed a two year deal, worth it’s thought £200,000 a season-that sum would cover the pay of 10 Titans.

How to contain the rampaging Jones will be one of the huge challenges facing Rotherham.

And they also need to find a way of winning because they’ve suffered four consecutive defeats by Bristol this season-twice in the league, once in the British and Irish Cup and then last Saturday’s loss in the first leg of the play-offs.

The defeats have not been large:by 120 points to 95,so only 26 points separates the sides.

Tonight, as in previous clashes, a major player in the Rotherham team will be flanker Jack Preece who specialises in stealing opposition ball.

“ Coming from Gloucester, I’d love to beat Bristol because the clubs are great rivals on the pitch. Bristol are beateable.Absolutely.

“ When you look back at the other games this season, we’ve scored points, so we can create chances.

“In the build-up this week, we’ve been relaxed because we know now what we are up against.

We’ve been concentrating on ourselves and not them as last week. We will learn from our mistakes.

“Bristol are under far more pressure than us. Rotherham have nothing to lose and people expect Bristol to win and we know we are the underdogs.

“We were nervous but not now.

“Regarding playing against Ryan Jones, I’m looking forward to it. He’s a great player who’s performed at the highest level.

“ The experience of playing against a British Lion will be fantastic and when you are on the same field as a Lion, you’re inspired to do better and you learn a lot.

“It will be great to tell people that I played for Rotherham against a British Lion.”

Whatever the outcome of the clash against Bristol, Rotherham have stepped up their efforts as they plan for next season.

Blackett’s long term thinking is establishing close links with Premiership club Newcastle Falcons.

Rotherham Titans: Scanlon, Broadley, Gill, Roberts, Keating, Socino, Mulchrone, Williams, Cruse, Quigley, Thomas-Brown, Holmes, Rieder, Preece, To’oala.

Replacements: Birch, Hislop, Tampin, Sanderson, Davies, White, Murphy.