Rotherham Titans: Blackett hoping to tie down influential pair

Michael Keating

Michael Keating

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Rotherham Titans, now back with a good chance of making the promotion play-offs in the Championship, are cautiously optimistic that two of their most influential players will remain at the club next season.

It’s hoped that fly half James McKinney and winger Michael Keating will sign new deals next week-a move which would be a major boost for the Titans.

Ulsterman McKinney, who’s masterminded the two recent wins against Yorkshire Carnegie and Cornish Pirates, is Rotherham’s top points’ scorer on 122 made up of one try, 18 conversions,26 penalties and a drop goal.

Keating with seven Championship tries is the team’s leading try scorer and is regarded as one of the league’s best wings.

Both Irishmen are intelligent and creative players who are respected by their opponents and team-mates, and with McKinney and Keating in the side next season, Rotherham’s chances of another successful campaign will be greatly increased.

Meanwhile, in a significant development at Clifton Lane, forward Jack Preece has decided to switch positions next season from flanker to hooker.

Preece, who scored his sixth Championship try in the current league programme on Sunday against Cornish Pirates, is one of Rotherham’s most effective forwards as he regularly wins opposition ball.

“Jack has a massive ambition to be a Premiership player and feels the way the modern game is going, he has more chance of achieving that as a hooker,”says Titans’ coach Lee Blackett. “This decision to change roles is a joint one, but 80 per cent comes from Jack because he wants to make the transition.

“This change gives us the opportunity to pick a bigger back row and Jack has already played hooker this season against Bristol and Doncaster.

“We have a lot of respect for him, Jack trains really hard and he will make this move work for him.

“Tom Cruse is our regular hooker and another excellent player for us, so it’s up to him and Jack to fight it out.”

“So there’s plenty of competition, and I also want to bring in a third hooker for next season and a second row and back row forward.

“The aim is to have a squad of 33 players and I’m delighted we have retained at least a dozen of the current one who’ve shown real belief and professionalism in the last two games to get us back into fourth place. Now, we must keep up those standards starting against Bristol, a week on Saturday.”