TROUBLED Rotherham Titans have four long-term absentees back in their squad for today’s British & Irish Cup visit from Ealing Trailfinders.
The South Yorkshire club have little chance of progressing to the knockout stages but are in desperate need of a win of any sorts after six successive losses.
The return of centre Jordan Davies to the starting line-up after three months out is a real tonic alone.
However, seeing hooker Darran Harris, who has missed 14 weeks, loosehead prop Toby Williams after a similar lay-off and another centre Joel Gill for the first time since rupturing his knee cruciate last term, all sat on the bench, too, is further good news for head coach Mark Jones.
His side are still missing a raft of players but the Welshman insisted: “Considering we’ve lost a few games of late, the morale within the group has been good.
“The boys are obviously hurting and disappointed with parts of our performance in some areas; not all areas though as we’re actually creating opportunities to score.
“It’s the execution of those opportunities, whether they are overlaps, driving line-out opportunities or our phase attack around the oppositions 22.
“We’ve approached the B&I Cup strong all year and despite it being unlikely we’ll progress to the latter stages, we’ll continue to respect the competition and we’ve selected a squad accordingly.”
In contrast, Doncaster Knights are flying, unbeaten in 11 games and as high as second in the Championship. With that challenge in mind, it is no surprise they have made numerous changes to the side that drew 17-17 in Jersey a fortnight ago for this afternoon’s trip to Irish side Connacht.
Centres Bevon Armitage and Andy Bulumakau link up in midfield for the first time since December’s victory over Newport Gwent Dragons Premiership Select XV while Simon Humberstone makes his long-awaited first start for the South Yorkshire club at fly-half with Sam Edgerley wearing No 9.
Young prop Joe Sproston earns his first competitive start for Doncaster while dual-registered Newcastle Falcons lock Glen Young also starts along with Leicester Tigers youngster Will Owen at open side.
Fellow Tigers Riccardo Brugnara and Joe Maksymiw are among the replacements.
Similarly, Yorkshire Carnegie head coach Bryan Redpath – whose side are just behind Doncaster in the Championship play-off fight – has switched things around for their tie against Munster A at Huddersfield RUFC on Sunday.
Only three players who started in Carnegie’s last league game against Ealing are named: winger David Doherty, Taylor Prell – who moves from wing to full-back – and Andy Saull, the former Saracens No 7 who captains.
Among the alterations, Oli Goss, with his first Carnegie appearance of the campaign, and Jarad Williams return following their short loan spell at Huddersfield.