Rotherham Titans: Unchanged side tipped for Bristol test

Lee Blackett

Lee Blackett

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Rotherham Titans are expected to stick with the squad which achieved a fifth consecutive win last week for Sunday’s huge challenge against Championship leaders Bristol at Ashton Gate.

Coach Lee Blackett – whose side are fourth in the league with five wins in seven games – may make the odd change to the side that beat Cornish Pirates as he prepares to face a Bristol side who have won all seven matches so far.

“We need to be a lot better than we were at times against Pirates,” Blackett said.

“We did some good things and we manage games well in wet conditions, but we do need to improve in some areas.

“I actually think Bristol are better than last year, the squad have improved and they are a real force.

“I believe they are strong enough to survive in the Premiership; in fact, Worcester would, too, in my opinion.

“We go there as massive, massive underdogs. Bristol, like Worcester, are way ahead of the other teams in the Championship.”

With a budget of more than £3m, it is thought that Bristol spend more than some Premiership clubs, such as London Welsh, Newcastle Falcons and Sale Sharks.

Given that Rotherham are believed to spend on all rugby matters in the region of half a million pounds a year, it is remarkable that the Clifton Lane club compete so effectively in the Championship.

So after six seasons out of the Premiership, it is easy to see why Bristol are so keen to regain their place and compete again in European competitions.

A crowd of more than six thousand is expected at Ashton Gate.

The Titans will be relieved to know that former Wales skipper and British Lion, Ryan Jones, will not be playing because of injury, but another Wales international and British Lion, scrum half Dwayne Peel, may be included in the Bristol squad.

Managed by the former England and Scotland coach, Andy Robinson, Bristol have beaten Worcester, Yorkshire Carnegie, Cornish Pirates, London Scottish, Moseley, Doncaster and Nottingham.

Three players Rotherham need to deny scoring opportunities to are flankers Ollie Robinson and Marco Mama and full back Auguy Slowik who has scored seven tries in the league and in the B and I Cup.

After Sunday’s game, the Titans return to action in the Cup with a home fixture against Ulster Ravens; it’s too early to say whether flanker Max Argyle, who injured a foot during training before the Cornish Pirates match, will be fit, but the injury is less serious than was first thought and he has every chance of playing in the next two weeks.