Davies relishing tough Cup test
THE British & Irish Cup takes centre stage for the next two weekends with the Cornish Pirates facing Ulster Ravens at the Mennaye Field on Friday night (7.45pm), writes Dick Straughan.
The 2010 winners of the competition have never faced the Irish side before and will follow this fixture with a clash against another unfamiliar opponent, Ayr, when they travel to the west coast of Scotland on October 19.
Last season the Pirates were eliminated in the tournament quarter final by Munster whilst Ulster failed to qualify from the group stage after being pipped by Bristol. A year earlier Ulster made it to the final eight only to be eliminated while the Pirates suffered a shock semi-final defeat at Cross Keys on the day that Chris Stirling announced he was leaving the Cornish club.
Home advantage should favour the Pirates on Friday especially after a promising league start for Ian Davies' new look squad.
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The Pirates sit fourth in the table with three wins from their first four games but their head coach expects a stern test from the Ravens, especially with the senior Ulster side performing well in the RaboDirect Pro12 league this season.
"It's going to be a really tough battle," said Davies. "In truth you want to avoid the Irish sides in the B&I Cup because they are always very strong. Ulster haven't had a lot of luck in this competition so far because they have always been drawn in tough qualifying groups.
"There are no mugs in our group along with Jersey and Ayr, the Scottish champions, and we have already spoken about how we can`t afford to slip up. It's a tough competition and we need to start well."
With skipper Gavin Cattle, is scheduled to make his 200th appearance for the club, the Pirates hope to use the competition to allow some squad rotation, but will definitely be without No8 Laurie McGlone who injured his neck against Moseley.
He said: "We will look to use some rotation up until about November but injuries are taking a bit of a toll at the moment.
"That said, the guys who are being selected are playing very well so anyone coming in has to make sure that they stand up and do their job well."
Another back row, Kyle Marriott, faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines after a knee operation and prop Alan Paver (calf) is a doubt, but centre Junior Fatialofa is fit again after picking up a knock last Friday.
Front row duo Ben Prescott and Peter Joyce are available with Shane Cahill almost fit again following a pre-season injury. Lock Neale Patrick is expected to make his Pirates debut at Ayr.
Cornish Pirates (from): Evans, Fatialofa, Goss, Hallett, Hendrickson, Holland, James, Jones, Kessell, Moyle, Conlon, Pope, Riley, Sinclair, Tincknell; Andrew, Barry, Carpenter, Cahill, Channon, Joyce, Elloway, Graulich, Morgan, Patrick, Paver, Prescott, Stevens, Sandford, Davies, Cattle, Cheesman.