Early-season pacesetters Rotherham look to upset favourites

Rotherham Titans head coach Lee Blackett
Rotherham Titans head coach Lee Blackett
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The chance to prove that their blistering start to the season is not just down to playing weaker opposition presents itself to Rotherham Titans this afternoon.

The surprise early-season pacesetters have racked up 168 points in three landslide victories, but their development as a unit and potential promotion party-poopers is given its stiffest examination today.

London Welsh are the visitors, the team relegated from the Premiership last season and favoured by many – Titans head coach Lee Blackett included – as the team to beat in order to reach the Premiership.

“It’s a good test of how far we have come,” said Blackett. “We want to test ourselves against the best teams in the league. We want to know where we are as a club.

“We will respect London Welsh, but we’ll make it hard for them.

“Last year we didn’t beat anyone from the top four at Clifton Lane, no major scalps, which is unlike us. And for me London Welsh are the favourites for promotion, so this would be a good one.

“If we are at our best we will have every chance.”

Victory today would turn a few heads, given their opening three victories have come against Ealing Trailfinders, who look out of their depth, and Moseley twice, though neither of those were on home soil.

“I don’t know how much credit we have got for what we have done so far,” said Blackett, who is largely untroubled by external opinion. “But all we worry about is developing week on week.”

A healthy crowd is expected on the tops of Rotherham today, with the bright start made by the Titans helping to draw the players and fanbase closer together.

“Our crowd is always a big factor,” said Blackett, who on taking the job in the summer, made reconnecting with the supporters his principal aim.

“The most pleasing thing for me, regardless of the performances and the results, is the atmosphere at the club and the support we have received. That has been fantastic.

“We arrived at Moseley last week and the players were clapped off the bus by our fans. Then after the game the players went onto the supporters’ bus and thanked them. That bond between the players and the fans is why guys like Alfie To’oala and Juan Pablo Socino have come back to us this year. And that is what this club is all about.”

On facing Rotherham, Welsh head coach Justin Burnell said: “I was always under the impression that they were a big physical team, but they’ve scored some fantastic tries this year and play with a lot of width.”