BURTON RFC director of rugby Steve Smith has called on Darryl Banton to prove that he is the best scrum-half in the county in tomorrow’s top-of-the-table clash with local rivals Lichfield.
The second-placed Crofters travel to the Midlands 1 West league leaders, kick-off 2.15pm, knowing that only a win will keep them in with a realistic hope of staying in the race for the title.
And Smith singled out scrum-half Banton and skipper Josh Cartwright as two players who will be key to success, with the former expected to have a running battle with an ex-Crofter in the Lichfield ranks – Jonny Evans.
“Josh needs to lead from the front – physically and mentally – and accept nothing less from every squad member,” he said.
“I am also personally looking forward to the scrum half battle where I expect ex-Burton player Jonny Evans and our own Darryl Banton to have a very keenly contested battle which will set the tone of the game.
“And I am sure that Darryl will want to prove he is the best scrum half in the county.”
Lichfield are 11 points ahead of Burton, and won the reverse fixture at Peel Croft earlier in the season, and yet Smith believes that if anyone can win at Cooke Fields, it is his team.
He said: “We know what Lichfield are all about and have played them two to three times a season over the past few years, so there are no surprises in their armoury.
“The challenge is to show absolutely no respect, as Stoke did to record the only victory against them this season.
“The players are under no illusions and we know Lichfield are a very good side, but I feel we are one of the few teams in this league who have the physical ability to cause them significant problems in the forward pack.
“The likes of Tom Harris, Craig Dutton, Matt Tivey and Liam Hucknall will be key to taking the ball up hard and make Lichfield defend for long period of time.
“We must ensure that we give Lichfield no opportunity to get their hands on the ball and re-align – the key is good quality quick ball and not making simple mistakes.
“In the backs it is crucial that we get on the front foot, utilising our strike runners – who are some of the best in the league.
“Our playmakers just need to ensure they follow the game plan and play in the right areas of the field.
“Commitment in defence is paramount in shutting sides like Lichfield down and not allowing any space for them to manoevere, as they are capable of finishing off any half-chance given them.”
Burton are expected to make just one change from the side which beat Kenilworth last weekend, with Will Brooks’ injury restricting him to a bench role, meaning Tom Harris will step in at second row.