When Saturday comes – a call to Arms
No disrespect to either Broadstreet or Chinnor, but Cardiff at the weekend will represent a significantly tougher challenge than the two previous friendlies and it will be interesting to see how Coventry fare against the team who were fourth in the Welsh premiership last year. It’s a substantial step up in opposition and a reverse of last year’s 30-25 defeat would be most welcome.
However, I don’t think Scott Morgan will be overly worried by the score, provided the performances on the pitch continue to improve. I’m sure he’ll be looking at key areas where he hasn’t yet seen enough to be able to pencil in names for Wharfedale with any confidence – outside centre, wing and the prop/flanker pairings I imagine are up for grabs, with strong competition for places meaning that outstanding performances in the remaining games will have a strong bearing on the September 4th teamsheet. Players need to have these games in order to show how they deal with the expected additional pressures; better to be found a little wanting now than, say, against Rosslyn Park in October.
A trip to Cardiff Arms Park will be special and with the Premiership Rugby Sevens being held after the Coventry match, it will be a veritable rugbyfest. I imagine there will be a larger than normal crowd for a friendly given the Sevens and despite the vastness of the stadium, the atmosphere should be good.
The word ‘friendly’ when applied to a match involving Coventry and any Welsh team always seems rather incongruous to those of us who remember the fixtures of the late sixties and seventies. They were always the most hard fought of games, other than those against Moseley and Gloucester…I well recall the animosity between the teams, the punch-ups and brawls on the pitch and the vitriol that poured forth from the stands which was a real shock to me when I first encountered it. I always looked forward to clashes with teams from the Principality because it was always going to a blood and thunder affair; it’s nice to have a few Welshmen playing for us now!
I’m nor suggesting for a moment that crowds should be abusive towards the opposition, but the noise and fervour of a passionate Cov crowd will impact on both teams, in different ways, of course. The players, however, must first win the crowd over; it’s not always the victory that we desire, it’s more about seeing a Cov team give its all, and individuals within the team wear the shirt with pride. Such commitment ensures the crowd will be on their side. You can’t always rely on them to get behind an underachieving team; we are a fickle breed, us ‘supporters’. That said, success breeds more success, both on and off the pitch. and a run of wins similar to that of last season will should impact positively on the gate. Jon Sharp said as much at the Forum and I’m sure the coaches will be labouring the point between now and the start of the season.
For me, the likes of Lespierre, La Roux, Knox and even Munroe are players who have the ability to transform the mood of a crowd. A surging run or a crunching tackle can be enough to change the impetus of a game and, with it, the emotions of those watching. They are game changers and together with some of the new recruits (Devlin Hope, Martin Wolfsenden and James Tincknell amongst others) they have a massive role to play. Hurrell was the embodiment of this; those rampaging runs lifted everyone in the crowd and I rather expect his team mates, too. Let’s hope Dan Rundle makes a ‘speedy’ recovery, with ball in hand there is no finer sight and he’s guaranteed to bring in a few more through the turnstiles when he’s back in the team.
The old Coundon Road, and the ‘cowshed’ in particular, was a much more informal setting than the Butts and whilst all-seater stands are undoubtedly much safer, they certainly lack the atmosphere. There’s far less banter between supporters and between supporters and players. The Butts does lack a little passion at times, although against the top teams, with crowds approaching 2000+, the roar is there. A successful run up to Christmas, with promotion still a strong possibility, could well put another 500 on the gate. Then would the place rock! Although the crowd for the Chinnor game was a little disappointing, even with the inducement of a free burger, the London Welsh and Ealing games should pull a lot more spectators in and give the players new to Coventry a taste of what they might expect should things go well once the league fixtures get under way. At the moment they must be wondering where the crowds have gone.
An away trip to Wales isn’t just about the rugby. It’s a day spent with my son. And on my birthday, too…it couldn’t get much better (unless accompanied by the rest of the family – just in case they are reading this!).
Thank you for reading this far! Could I ask you to humour me and complete the poll below…cheers, Tim