Doncaster Knights v London Irish: Team news and build-up as Knights face title favourites

Cameron Cowell
Cameron Cowell

Doncaster Knights will be bidding to avoid a fifth successive Championship defeat at Castle Park on Saturday (2.30pm) but they may need the luck of the Irish to do so.

Head coach Glen Kenworthy is under no illusions how tough it is going to be for the third-bottom Knights against a London Irish side who boast the only 100 per cent record in the Championship.

“We’ve got a hell of a job on our hands,” he said after studying footage of the Exiles’ 72-5 win over a depleted Yorkshire Carnegie last weekend.

“They are very strong in the set-pieces but we’ve got to try and get parity in the scrums where we have been going well this season.

“We’ve also got to make fewer mistakes in attack and also try and be brave in the tackle.

“They’ve got tremendous strength-in-depth and are able to rotate their side without weakening it. It also means it has been difficult to plan for the game because you don’t know which side they are going to play.

“In contrast we’ve been struggling to get a side out at times and we had to use two dual-registered forwards who had never played for us before at Bedford. But both did well and are likely to be in the squad again this week.

“We’ve really struggled in the back-row for numbers and we’ve had to play the same three players.

“We’ve still got people missing through injury but thankfully the illness problems we’ve had in the last couple of weeks have cleared up and full-back Cameron Cowell, who missed the Bedford game with a virus, is set to come into contention after resuming training this week.”

Several other players are expected to face late fitness tests.

New defensive coach Phil Larder MBE, who started work at the club on a temporary basis on Tuesday, will be looking for a better defensive showing than in recent weeks.

The 73-year-old, who has coached England in both rugby codes at World Cup level, agreed to help the club out while director of rugby Clive Griffiths continues his recovery from heart surgery last month.

“Clive was in earlier in the week but he has decided to take a step backwards,” said Kenworthy, who said Larder had settled in well.

“Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can be useful and if he can improve things by just one per cent it’s a step in the right direction,” he said.