HEAVILY-DEPLETED Rotherham Titans know they face a formidable challenge against Cornish Pirates today.
Not only has head coach Justin Burnell seen 11 players sidelined by treatment or suspension, he has also had a clutch of dual-registered players recalled by Gloucester ahead of the Clifton Lane fixture.
The problems are so dire that the South Yorkshire club has only just managed to name a 22-man squad for their return to Championship action after a fortnight in the British & Irish Cup.
Burnell had to wait for a raft of late fitness test to come back positive while Rotherham have also signed Dan Kelly, a 21-year-old utility back, on loan from National League Two North side Sheffield Tigers.
He could debut from the bench as the side look to fight fires as best as possible.
“Our biggest challenge right now is the injury list,” admitted Burnell. “We had 15 boys out and unable to train at the beginning of the week and when you carry a 34-man squad those sorts of numbers on the physio’s couch don’t help. It looked as though I would have to put my boots back on at one stage. Thankfully that moment passed.”
Rotherham lost 40-24 at London Welsh in the B&I Cup a week ago but did halt a slide the week before when defeating Doncaster Knights in that competition.
They return to the Championship in tenth place, though, and face a Pirates side who vanquished an Ospreys Select side 41-5 on Sunday.
Burnell insisted: “Cornish Pirates will give the lads an opportunity to show the improvement they’re making.
“We’ve seen a bit of the Pirates, they’ve got plenty of energy and a lot of good young players in their squad.
“They are currently fourth in the league and to be there at this stage shows just how competitive they are.
“However, we are back at home and irrelevant of the results, we know we are improving as a team and if we can perform to the levels we are capable of, we’ll give ourselves an opportunity to do well against a good side.”
Rotherham have made nine changes in total from last week five of which come along the backline.
A new half-back pairing of George Tresidder and Will Robinson is introduced as they come in for Matt Dudman and Lloyd Evans.
Captain Will Owen returns to the side at inside centre for the injured Joe Barker, Will Thomas comes in on the wing for the suspended Ben Foley and at full-back Will Goodwin takes the place of the injured Charlie Foley.
In the pack Toby Williams is given the nod over Tom Williams at loosehead prop, at hooker Charlie Maddison comes in for the impressive Luke Cole and in the back-row Buster Lawrence makes a timely return to the side following a five week injury absence for Joe Batley.
George Oliver rounds off the changes as he replaces Dan Thomas.