Rotherham’s plans at advanced stage

Rotherham Titans head coach Lee Blackett
Rotherham Titans head coach Lee Blackett
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Lee Blackett says Rotherham 
Titans are further ahead than they have been for a number of years when it comes to planning for a forthcoming campaign.

Back-row forward Ali Birch took the number of players re-signed for next season into double figures when he committed to the Clifton Lane club for the 2014-15 season and beyond.

Ben Sowery and Ben Sanderson have agreed to join Worcester in the summer while Juan Pablo Socino is courting interest from Newcastle among others and Laurence Pearce has caught the eye of Leicester Tigers.

But as far as strength goes for next term, Rotherham are ahead of schedule.

“You’d probably have to go back nearly a decade to the last time this club was this far along in its recruitment,” said head coach Blackett.

“I expect us to be making another couple of announcements in the coming days as well.”

The number of players re-signing outweighs the number moving on, which is a testament to the season Rotherham have put together under their rookie head coach. Sustaining that is vital if they are to finish in the top-four play-off position they have occupied all season.

For all the fanfare surrounding last week’s hosting of Bristol on Sky Sports – a game they lost after spending £20,000 to get floodlights to their ground – it amounted to just one match in a 23-round regular season.

They still have six games left to cement a top-four spot, starting tomorrow at resurgent Nottingham.

“Last weekend was a fantastic occasion for the club and it was just a pity we couldn’t get the win,” said Blackett.

“But that’s in the books now. Nottingham are very strong on their home patch, as they’ve shown in the last two games when they ran Bristol close and beat London Scottish.

“We beat them at Clifton Lane, but it was one of the only times this season where we’ve come off the pitch knowing we were lucky to win.”

Doncaster Knights face a major test of their National One title credentials when they visit fifth-place Esher. The Surrey side were second in the league when Doncaster beat them at Castle Park, and although they have slipped out of the promotion race, they remain formidable opponents.

“We have got a big target on our chests anywhere we go – we have said it all season,” said Knights’ director of rugby Clive Griffiths.