Having destroyed Cinderford with three back-rowers last time out, Birmingham & Solihull will effectively send four into battle against Waterloo tomorrow.
In a match that pits National Two’s top side against its bottom team, league leaders Bees have identified the breakdown as the key area and with that in mind have brought Jack Preece in at hooker instead of Ben Phillips.
Preece came to Sharmans Cross Road as the archetypal nose-over-the-ball openside and while his early matches as a 17-year-old saw his light frame receive some fairly brusque treatment, he has not lost the skill-set that helped him make the transition from junior to National League rugby.
Since then he has converted to front row and while he will honour all his hooking commitments he will also be asked to stick his hands in rucks to steal whatever possession visitors Waterloo can glean at Sharmans Cross Road.
To be fair that might not be much. While Waterloo are on a winning streak of one, after last Saturday’s surprise victory over Stourbridge, Bees have not lost in the league in nine matches.
They hit the top of the table for the first time all season as a result of their afternoon in the Forest of Dean and will be confident of maintaining their run to the business end of the season.
After the Waterloo fixture, Bees then face Launceston and Tynedale away, so they cannot afford a slip this weekend.
That is unlikely.
Bees’ back row of Chris Brightwell, Rob Connolly and Leo Halavatau completely stopped Cinders getting to the ball and with Russell Earnshaw and Jim Jenner soon to return to the squad after a fortnight playing sevens, there is an abundance of loose forwards.
Another, Adam Clayton, gets to start tomorrow and, with Preece, Brightwell and Halavatau, will present an awesome obstacle for this weekend’s visitors.
But coach Eugene Martin is taking nothing for granted. “Waterloo won at the weekend, let’s not push that to the side and forget it.,” he said.
“They saw an opportunity to do something and the dangerous thing with that is they are gong to be excited about coming to us. They could end their season on a real high by turning us over, it would really show them some light at the end of the tunnel.”
In the absence of Phillips and Connolly, both of whom are on the bench, Alex Davidson will lead the side for the first time this season. The calculated risk is that a player who has been known to find himself on the wrong side of the law, will instead lay it down to any hot-heads in his own team.
“We want to see if he can take up that leadership role and maybe rein himself in,” says Martin. “Sometimes the extra responsibility can bring the best out in players.” Particularly if they are part of a rampant side as Bees will expect to be.