Preview: London Welsh v Cornish Pirates
THE Cornish Pirates return to Championship action this weekend as they face a stern test away to London Welsh at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford on Saturday evening (6.30pm), writes Dick Straughan.
The Exiles are unbeaten in their opening four league games and sit in pole position in the league table as they look to bounce back to the Premiership at the first attempt.
With 25 tries under their belts in six outings this season, including eight in last Saturday's 53-10 hammering of Ayr, the Pirates will travel keen to do better than on their only visit to the Kassam Stadium so far.
That was in May 2012 when a 29-20 defeat sealed promotion to the top flight for London Welsh. But while only seven of that squad remain, head coach Ian Davies expects a "huge test" from a different Welsh line up.
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"Since they were relegated from the Premiership they have been constantly performing as you would expect them to," he said. "They will be very difficult to beat."
He added: "London Welsh have a big pack marshalled well by Gordon Ross at fly-half but also have a good attacking threat from their back three. They are not just about set piece play because they carry the ball well and are playing a Premiership type of game in the Championship."
And Davies knows what he wants from his team if they are to extend their current four game winning run.
"We have to keep challenging for the full eighty minutes both in attack and defence," he said. "We have to keep up the intensity, ask questions and put them under pressure."
The Pirates boss has said that there "may be changes" to his squad even though he is happy with how the team has performed in their two British & Irish Cup matches.
News that casualties of the cup win at Ayr, Gavin Cattle (back) and Aaron Carpenter (knee), are not serious concerns for the medical team have given Davies a boost and he expects to welcome back several first team regulars into contention for this week.
Alan Paver, Laurie McGlone, Chris Morgan, Tom Riley and Junior Fatialofa are all available again although James Tincknell (hamstring) remains on the sidelines. Lock Gary Johnson (ankle) is expected to be out of action until the end of November.
Cornish Pirates (from): Evans, Fatialofa, Goss, Hallett, Hendrickson, Holland, James, Jones, Kessell, Moyle, Conlon, Pope, Riley, Sinclair; Andrew, Barry, Carpenter, Cahill, Channon, Joyce, Elloway, Graulich, Patrick, Paver, Prescott, Stevens, Davies, Cattle, Cheesman, Dancer, McGlone, Morgan, Atkinson, Parker.