- Titans make six changes ahead of Bristol clash
- Bester determined to stop West Country club's charge
Photo: RFU Archive
Rotherham Titans have made six changes ahead of table topping Bristol’s visit to Clifton Lane this Saturday, kick off 3pm.
There are three changes in the back line which sees Steve Hamilton start at outside centre, replacing Elliott Brierley, who had a fine game at Moseley. The half back combination of Garry Law and Jimmy Williams will return to the fray, in place of Cliffie Hodgson and Matt Rhodes.
In the pack Ted Stagg returns for Dan Baines at hooker and there’s a welcome return for fans favourites Sam Dickinson and Sean Dougall. The former starts at lock for Barney Maddison while the latter returns at open side flanker for last week’s star man Carl Kirwan.
Bristol will no doubt provide a stern test for the South Yorkshire side as they currently sit top of the pile with 7 wins from 8 matches played. Their only defeat came earlier in the season with the narrowest of defeats away to Leeds. Bristol can also boast to having the best defence in the Championship, having conceded just 128 points so far.
The overall league head to head between the sides sees Bristol hold a slender 6-4 advantage, although Rotherham achieved the league double over Bristol last term. Head Coach Andre Bester recognises what a difficult challenge Bristol will present but believes his charges are up for the task, Bester said, “Bristol are the leaders, but so were Bedford and London Welsh! But there’s absolutely no doubt Bristol are a good side, you don’t get there being a bad side. Bristol have consistency and they win matches and they win the close matches.
“They had a narrow loss away to Leeds earlier in the season, but they have learnt from that experience and kicked on. So there’s no doubt that Bristol are a very good side, exceptionally experienced and although they have brought some new guys in, they do have continuity.
“Bristol are one of the most traditional clubs in English rugby with exceptional history behind them. They have to carry the burden of that history around with them, because a club like that with the support they have should not be in the Championship, they should be in the Premiership.
“It’s our job however not to let them continue their charge on our watch. For us the important thing is this match, we know they want to come here and put one over on us and we will be ready for that challenge. But we know that is going to be tough because they are a good abrasive side who are very direct and can play the total game.Whether it’s a tight game or a loose game they can do everything very well.
“But we’ve worked very hard in training this week; I don’t believe the boys have worked as hard all season in preparation of this game. And for us, it’s about winning this match and us taking the points.”
Fatialofa returns for visit to Clifton Lane
For league leaders Bristol, Liam Middleton makes four changes from the side that recorded a thrilling victory over London Welsh, as the sude go in search of their sixth successive league win.
In the backline, Junior Fatialofa returns after a five-game absence to start alongside top-scorer Jack Tovey in the midfield. Matty James continues at fly-half with Tristan Roberts still unavailable through injury.
Middleton shuffles his pack in the forwards, making two changes in the front row. Darren Crompton and Ross Johnston replace Mark Irish and Rhys Lawrence, while Darren Barry makes his first league start of the season.
A very strong replacement bench, including Roy Winters and Rhys Lawrence, sees a five forwards and two backs split.
Rotherham Titans vs Bristol Rugby, Saturday 29 October (3pm KO)
Tom Foden; Ed Tellwright, Steve Hamilton, Pale Nonu, Shane Monahan; Garry Law, Jimmy Williams; Jamie Kilbane, Ted Stagg, Rob O’Donnell, Sam Dickinson (c), Adrian Griffiths, Robin Copeland, Sean Dougall, Semisi Taulava.
Replacements: Dan Baines, Shane Cahill, Ben Hooper, Barney Maddison, Carl Kirwan, Matt Rhodes, Cliffie Hodgson, Ben Harris, Elliott Brierley.
Sean Marsden; George Watkins, Jack Tovey, Junior Fatialofa, Jon Goodridge; Matty James, Tom Slater; Darren Crompton, Ross Johnston, Jason Hobson, Mariano Sambucetti, Darren Barry, Josh Ovens, James Merriman, Iain Grieve (c).
Replacements: Rhys Lawrence, Mark Irish, Wayne Thompson, Roy Winters, Marco Mama, Louis Silver, Mark Davies.