- 2010/11 RFU Championship semi-finalists meet at Goldington Road
- Both sides hold 100% winning records going into Round 3
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Bedford Blues are all set for their first home game of the Championship season and the challenge doesn't get much tougher than a visit from London Welsh.
A match against the Exiles is much like a derby game and, with both teams sporting a 100% record in the league so far, there is everything to play for come 3pm on Saturday.
The injury picked up by Mike Howard was the only downside to an impressive 55-6 victory away at Esher last Saturday and the Blues will be hoping for much of the same this weekend.
Bedford director of rugby Mike Rayer reverts to the same team that started against Nottingham, with the one exception of Sean Tomes starting in place of Howard.
Speaking ahead of the game Rayer said: "All of the lads are really excited about performing at home for the first time and I think that the challenge London Welsh pose will be a good marker of where we stand."
Meanwhile, London Welsh head coach Lyn Jones makes five changes from the starting line up which maintained the Exiles’ winning start to the Championship season against Plymouth.
Last year’s Player’s Player of the Year Hudson Tonga’uiha comes in for his first start of the new season, having made an appearance off the bench in last Saturday’s 34-23 win over Albion at Old Deer Park.
There’s a double change in the front row with Vili Ma’asi and James Tideswell starting in place of Dan George and Greg Bateman, who both drop to the bench.
Gary Johnson partners Matt Corker in the second row in place of Mike Powell, while there is also a change in the back row, with Mike Denbee coming in for Michael Hills.
“Revolving the squad is important,” said Jones. “The boys who have played so far have played well; it’s just unfortunate that they’re not involved.
“Hudson is a quality player and Bedford are a quality outfit. He’s disappointed from not making Tonga’s World Cup squad and he’s got a lot of catching up to do to get match fit.”
We've got our worked cut out – Jones
It’s an early season top-of-the-table clash at Goldington Road, with both sides having won their opening two Championship fixtures, and Jones is expecting a tough test for the Exiles.
“I’ve watched Bedford play and they are a very good side,” he said.
“They’re well coached, well organised, well motivated, they’re fit and they’re fast. We’ve got our work cut out to get what we want from our visit to Goldington Road.
“But that’s what the boys are in it for, they want to be pushed and to play to the maximum, and I’m sure Bedford are going to do that.”
For Jones, cool heads will need to prevail if Welsh are to register their first win at Goldington Road since January 2009. Their three most recent visits have yielded three defeats, although the Exiles gained two losing bonus points in the sides’ two Championship meetings, while the other was a comprehensive win for the Blues in the British & Irish Cup.
“Rugby isn’t played in the bicep, it’s played upstairs. It’s about who can keep their clam and their cool in pressure situations, and there are going to be several of those,” added Jones.
“The test is there for the players to show that they are quality players who can go up a league.”
Brendan Burke; Handre Schmidt, Ollie Dodge, Tom Bedford, David Vincent; Jamie Lennard, Darryl Veenendaal; Sam Walsh, Neil Cochrane, Phil Boulton, Sean Tomes, Paul Tupai, Alex Rae (c), Sacha Harding, Jon Fisher.
Replacements: Chris Locke, Dan Seal, Ricky Reeves, Billy Johnson, Stefan Liebenberg, Jake Sharp, Mark Kohler.
Edd Thrower; Will Hurrell, Hudson Tonga’uiha, Simon Whatling, Liam Gibson; Gordon Ross, Rob Lewis; Billy Moss, Vili Ma’asi, James Tideswell, Gary Johnson, Matt Corker, Jon Mills (c), Mike Denbee, Ed Jackson.
Replacements: Dan George, Greg Bateman, Adam Brown, Lee Beach, Ben Stevenson, Alex Davies. Paul Mackey.