Doncaster Knights v Rotherham Titans: Knights are determined to earn respect of Titans in derby battle

Doncaster Knights back Bevon Armitage.

Doncaster Knights back Bevon Armitage.

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DONCASTER KNIGHTS centre Bevon Armitage has accused Rotherham Titans of showing his struggling side a “lack of respect” ahead of tomorrow’s crucial South Yorkshire derby.

Doncaster sit second bottom in the Championship after a wretched run in the league which has seen them not win since beating Yorkshire Carnegie at Headingley in September.

They host their fierce rivals at Castle Park desperately hoping to arrest that slump so they can start 2015 in positive mood and avert another relegation battle in their first campaign since being promoted back into the second tier.

Rotherham, play-off semi-finalists last season, have dropped out of the top four following successive losses against Bristol and Moseley but know a swift return to winning ways could thrust them straight back into the top echelon.

However, Armitage says Lee Blackett’s side are under-estimating Doncaster, having truncated their training schedule this week.

“We’ve studied Rotherham and they look like a very good team,” he told The Yorkshire Post.

“I’m impressed by their style as they like to play with a lot of width under their new coach.

“When I first came here years back, they were more forward-orientated but they have changed that under him and are doing well.

“But, apparently, they have been off most of this week until Friday. I don’t think they are giving us any respect by doing that.

“It would be great to get the win on Sunday, not just because it’s the derby and we’re on our home patch, but because they’ve decided not to train much, too.

“We’ve been in since last Sunday and we’re ready to go.”

Armitage, who returned for his second spell at Doncaster last season after a surprise release by the Championship’s current bottom side Plymouth Albion, insists they are not worrying about the unsavoury prospect of another relegation.

They went down in 2012-13 but returned immediately as National One champions and opened this campaign with an encouraging three victories from their first four Championship fixtures.

“At the start of the season we had a few good wins,” he added.

“You don’t just become a bad team overnight. We’ve done really well in the B&I Cup and I’m sure things will come right for us soon in the Championship as well.

“We’re training hard, working hard and we know the coaches are giving us all the input we need.

“It’s just missed opportunities at the minute that are hurting us; it’s a hard league anyway the Championship and you must take your chances.

“Our finishing is not where it should be at the minute and there’s some individual errors in there but we’re all confident we will turn this around and it will come together. It’s vital that we do.

“We know it will be tough on Sunday; this derby is one of the hardest around given the rivalry between the sides and we know how much it means to the fans.

“We’re desperate to give them the win and it should be entertaining.”

Doncaster – who have qualified for the B&I Cup quarter-finals with an impressive six wins from six in Pool Four – lost 24-3 at Nottingham in their last Championship fixture four days before Christmas while Rotherham endured a frustrating 26-22 defeat at home to Moseley on Boxing Day.

The Sky Sports television cameras, meanwhile, are at Castle Park tomorrow which is good news for the Armitage family.

He is, of course, the eldest of five rugby-playing brothers which include Toulon pair Delon – currently challenging a 12-week ban for verbally abusing a Leicester fan – and Steffon, the brilliant openside and reigning European Player of the Year who, controversially, is still ignored by England due to their rules on players playing overseas.

“It will be good for them to see me play as it’s not often they can,” he said.

“Delon had a couple of weeks off about a month ago and came over to watch me but Steffon hasn’t managed to this year.

“I don’t get much chance to get out there either the way the Championship season and B&I Cup is. Obviously, Delon’s in a bit of trouble again at the moment while I spoke to Steffon the other day about England.

“He said he would love to play in the World Cup for England here this year and that is his ambition.

“They keep getting his hopes up, one minute saying he can’t but then saying they could bring him back as they have a window of opportunity.

“At the minute, he’s not sure. I just told him if his name was Jonny Wilkinson he would definitely be playing for England at the World Cup.

“Fingers crossed it will happen but if it doesn’t he’s still playing for one of the best teams in the world and he loves the lifestyle over in France.”

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