Rotherham are free to express themselves in play-offs

Although a place in the Championship promotion play-offs was assured for Rotherham Titans last weekend, there is still plenty for them to play for this week.

Andre Bester’s side currently lie seventh in the standings knowing that a win or draw against eighth-placed Bristol at Clifton Lane will avoid seeing them placed in the same pool as strong favourites Worcester.

That would still leave them facing tough tests against a second pool likely to feature second-placed Bedford Blues and Yorkshire rivals Doncaster Knights, who defeated them 46-29 in the British & Irish Cup on Tuesday night.

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Winger and scrum-half Matt Rhodes hopes the fact Rotherham will have nothing to lose going into the post-season will work in their favour against some of the division’s more fancied teams.

Last season saw the Titans in the unenviable position of contesting the relegation play-offs, but Rhodes expects the South Yorkshire club to play without fear once the pool stages begin.

“The big plus for us going into the play-offs this season is that there will be a lot less pressure on us,” said Rhodes. “Last year we were playing under the cloud of possible relegation and that does have an effect on how you play.

“I think people will see a difference in our attitude when we play in the play-offs. We don’t really have anything to lose so it takes that pressure off.

“We are not really concerned about which group we end up in.

“It’s obviously going to be a big ask for us to get results away at Worcester and some of the other top-end teams, but we have a good chance at home and hopefully we can progress as far as possible.”

Bristol arrive at Clifton Lane looking to avenge the 26-24 defeat they suffered at the hands of Rotherham on the opening day of the season.

They booked their place in the top eight with an 18-13 win over Plymouth Albion, who join Esher, Moseley and Birmingham & Solihull in the relegation play-offs.

Doncaster finish their regular season by welcoming third-placed Cornish Pirates to Castle Park.

While Lynn Howell’s team will remain rooted in sixth spot whatever the outcome of today’s game, the Pirates will be particularly keen to secure victory in order to avoid the possibility of fourth-placed London Welsh overhauling them to take third spot in the overall standings.

Christian Lewis-Pratt retains the No 10 shirt after his 36-point haul against Rotherham on Tuesday, while young prospects Lewis Thiede and Dom Parsons also claim starting positions. Oli Goss returns to partner PJ Gidlow at centre.

“This game won’t affect where we finish in the table, so some of these youngsters can go out and play without any inhibitions,” said Howells.

In National One, Wharfedale will look to repeat the success they enjoyed over Macclesfield back in October when they make the trip to Priory Park.

The Greens – who will give a debut to new signing Joseph Evans at centre – ran in six tries against Macclesfield at Threshfield to secure a 43-24 triumph.

David Hughes returns to the pack, with Talite Vaioleti, resuming his duties in the second row.

Second-bottom Otley continue their bid for survival by travelling to Essex to take on leaders Barking, who won the reverse fixture at Cross Green between the two sides 41-24 back in October.