Decisive January on horizon after fixture disruption

AS the Arctic weather continues to cause havoc, South Yorkshire's Championship clubs, Doncaster Knights and Rotherham Titans – who should have played yesterday at Castle Park in the British and Irish Cup – are becoming increasingly worried about the fixture pile-up.

Doncaster now have two cup ties to rearrange against Birmingham and Solihull and Rotherham, but it's anyone's guess as to precisely when these outstanding games will go ahead.

The immediate priority for Lynn Howells, the Knight's director of rugby, is to prepare his squad for the Championship challenge at Meadow Lane against Nottingham a week today, but given the forecast he cannot be certain that this important league clash will go ahead and the same applies to Doncaster's fixture at home against London Welsh on Sunday, January 2.

Amid all the uncertainty, Howells does know that every effort will be made by Doncaster supporters and ground staff to do everything possible to make the pitch playable at Castle Park for the visit of London Welsh who, like Doncaster, seem certain to finish in the top eight and therefore in the Championship promotion play-offs.

Rotherham, now seventh in the league, have the same ambition and understandably Titans' coach Andre Bester was just as frustrated as Howells that yesterday's South Yorkshire derby had to be called off.

Bester lost the opportunity to put out his first-choice side which he was keen to see perform before the Boxing Day league game in the West Midlands against bottom side Birmingham and Solihull. Following successive defeats in the Championship by Bedford and Worcester, Rotherham must win at Birmingham and then at home against Plymouth, in ninth place, on New Year's Day.

January is going to be one of the hardest months in Rotherham's recent history. With seven games which include the two rearranged league matches against London Welsh at Clifton Lane on Wednesday, January 19, followed by a trip to Nottingham six days later, Rotherham above all else will be hoping that they do not suffer any more serious injuries which have cost them the services of props Rob and Anton O'Donnell.

The next two Championship games should see the debut of Rotherham's new signing from Argentina, second-row forward Agustin Smidt, whose height should guarantee lineout ball, and the reappearance in Titans' colours of Scottish prop Ben Prescott. The Scotsman, a good scrummager and dangerous going forward, provides the experience needed.

Bester has the knack of developing competitive teams and his loan deal to bring Prescott back to Rotherham is the wisest of moves.