IT may be a British & Irish Cup fixture but Doncaster Knights Clive Griffiths says today’s game with Bedford Blues will have all the intensity of a Championship encounter.
The South Yorkshire club are seeking to maintain their 100 per cent record in the competition so far – the only side to have amassed 10 points from their opening two games – and go a step closer to securing a home quarter-final tie.
But Bedford arrive at Castle Park still smarting from a last-second loss against Cross Keys that left them “deflated” having, at one point, led 19-3.
“I expect them to come up with a lot of confidence,” said Griffiths.
“Bedford should have won the game against Cross Keys last week.
“Just as we managed to win at Cornish Pirates in the last minute of our match, they managed to lose in the last minute of theirs with the very last play.
“That dealt them a really heavy blow. But Bedford got some points back after the Cornish irregularity so they are still in the mix.
“They know they have to win here and I’m expecting a tough Championship battle.
“Let’s not kid ourselves; it’s the B&I Cup but it’s Championship v Championship and we know what a war of attrition that comp can be.”
Bedford had lost their opening game against Cornish 35-34 after fly-half Bertie Hopkin scored a late try.
But he had come on to replace injured prop Tyler Gendell, Pirates having already replaced two others in the front-row.
The game went to uncontested scrums but Hopkin stayed on, when rules state his side should have played with 14 men.
An RFU disciplinary panel found that Cornish had broken the rules and docked them all five points won from the match, a ruling they are seeking legal advice on but, for now, one which blows open Pool Four with Bedford and Cross Keys both locked on six points.
Doncaster, meanwhile, hand a competitive debut to winger Sam Wilson, whose is on loan from National Two North outfit Hull Ionians, while half-backs Tomasi Palu and Jamie Lennard start in place of Bruno Bravo and Paul Roberts.
Up front there is an entire new front-row with Tom Davies, Jack Bergmanas and Colin Quigley all coming in while lock Matt Challinor replaces Tyler Hotson who starts on the bench.
He is joined there by Riccardo Brugnara who returns to Castle Park having made several appearances with Leicester Tigers in the early stages of their season.
Griffiths wants to restore some of his regular players in readiness for their next Championship game, the testing trip to Bristol, but he has been pleased by the way some of his squad members have stood up in the opening two B&I Cup games.
“Andrew Bulumakau had his first start at centre last week and, by, didn’t he take his chance?” said the Welshman.
“He was instrumental and down at Cross Keys, too, he scored a wonder try.
“Young Jack Bergmanas at hooker who’s come through the junior ranks at Doncaster has certainly put a bit of pressure on Ben Sow
“Ross Davies has played number two to Colin Quigley but came in at Cross Keys and going back to Wales grew an extra leg to earn man of the match.
“Will Foden in the back-row has returned from what can only be described as the most horrendous injury – getting kicked by a horse and seeing every ligament in his knee wrecked – and, after I made him captain last week, he has repaid me by the bucket load,” he said.
“Michael Hills is back this week and it’s unfortunate for Will that he’s team captain and in the same position but Will has proved himself.”
Doncaster have won five of their opening seven games in all competitions so far this season since winning promotion back into the Championship.
Confidence is clearly high and Griffiths wants to ensure that remains the same with another positive performance this afternoon.
“We’re building every week and it doesn’t matter if it’s the B&I Cup, the Championship or even a friendly,” he said.
“Obviously our main goal is to stay in the Championship. That is the main priority.
“Whatever comes after, like progressing in the B&I Cup, we’ll take.
“But every game is important not just for confidence and momentum but for individual players, too, who may not have been playing regularly.
“It’s a chance for them to say “I am still here and I can play.’
“That has certainly happened in the first two B&I Cup games and hopefully we’ll see more of that again on Saturday.
“We’re going along nicely but we won’t get carried away.
“The game at Bristol is going to be the game to see where we really are in our development.”