HEAD coach Mark Jones says Rotherham Titans are facing a “really important” stage of their season, starting with today’s visit from Jersey, as they seek a play-off spot for a third successive campaign.
The South Yorkshire club return to the Championship after two weeks of British & Irish Cup action keen to maintain their earlier momentum.
Rotherham secured back-to-back league wins against Nottingham and relegated London Welsh to stay on the heels of the top-four. But despite having six league wins ahead of this weekend, the same as second-placed Yorkshire Carnegie, Doncaster Knights in third and Bedford Blues in fourth, they are only fifth and under pressure from the chasing pack.
Jones said: “We’ve battled hard this season to get victories in close games.
“But, although we’ve got the same number of wins as those above us – only leaders Bristol have more – we haven’t really pulled away from that little block below us.
“Jersey and London Scottish are both coming up in our next two games and so these are really big games for us in the context of that. They are really important games for us.
“We’ve had a nice little change of scenery in the B&I Cup, but we’re looking forward to getting back into the Championship on Saturday.”
Jersey – and Scottish, for that matter – are just six points behind Rotherham and they remain a difficult side to judge.
They drew 22-22 with Doncaster recently in the B&I Cup and pushed a Dragons Select side close in that competition, too.
In the Championship, they won 20-5 at London Scottish last time out, but lost narrowly to London Welsh and Nottingham.
Jones, in his first season in charge at Clifton Lane, maintained: “Jersey are a very powerful team with some huge forwards. They were very strong against Doncaster in the set-piece, but have some pace in the back-three now as well.
“No doubt, though, they will be coming at us up front here and we have to be ready for that.”
Jones has made seven changes to the side that won 48-12 at Ealing in the B&I Cup.
Robin Hislop returns at loosehead prop for Michael Cromie, club captain Tom Holmes comes in at lock, replacing Toby Salmon while, in the back row Ali Birch and Max Argyle take the spots of Kyle Gilmour and Josh Redfern.
Ross Jones starts at fly-half instead of Will Goodwin, Lloyd Hayes is preferred over Jack Hayes at No 13 and, similarly, Ben Rath replaces Michael Keating on the wing while trialist Will Crane, the former Birmingham & Solihull hooker, will look to make an impact from the bench.
Meanwhile, Jones is delighted to see the South Yorkshire derby at Doncaster will be showcased live on Sky Sports 1 on Sunday, January 31 (kick-off 3.15pm).
He said: “The boys enjoy playing in front of the Sky cameras and this is a great chance to show everyone just what this derby is about.
“Everyone is excited by that prospect and we’ll look forward to it in the new year.”