At the start of each of the past two seasons, I always felt there was an ‘are we/aren’t we?’ uncertainty amongst supporters as to the ‘P’ word. Was this the season that we were really going to push for promotion, or were we looking to further develop the squad and infrastructure in readiness for a sustained campaign in a season or two? Midway through last season, and the 18 game unbeaten run well under way, we began to believe that perhaps promotion last year was a real possibility, but in truth 4 (?) defeats before Christmas meant that it was always going to be a tough ask, if not an impossible one.
However, this is not true of the current pre-season campaign. Promotion is on everyone’s lips from the onset and I hope the elephant that was once in the room will be found loud and proud on the shirts of the team at the top of the National 1 table come April 30th.
John Wilkinson , in a CET article yesterday , makes reference to the fact that Cov have made no secret of their intention to mount a serious promotion challenge this time round , something further endorsed by the headline to the piece. Coventry have clearly set out their stall and rightly or wrongly, they will now be judged by their league position, rather than just their performance. The messageboard (Rugbynetwork for the uninitiated; and a fantastic read it is too) will be a busy place should we come away with anything less than four or even five points in the opening few games. The knockers will always knock, let’s hope they’re not hammering at the door by Christmas.
Clearly Phil Maynard and the coaching staff believe they have the squad to make a concerted push for promotion with strength in-depth in all the key areas. Reading between the lines, it seems that Loti Malatika or Joe Carpenter, are vying for the No 8 spot given Jacques Le Roux continued absence – with Liam Munroe now at Broadstreet, it would seem they are the front runners. I rather think from Phil M’s comments that Carpenter will get rather more game time in the final two friendlies just whether he can fill that role. My money is still on Loti and always has been.
Caolan Ryan and Adam Canning have clearly been brought in to put pressure on Hodgson and Jones, but they will have to make do as utility back for the time being as I’m sure that Scott M will give preference to the two senior pros to begin with. However, both Ryan and Canning have performed well so far and given their ability to play at 10 and 15, and probably elsewhere in the three-quarters, one or both of them could well be in the 20 man squad for the Wharfedale game.
Although Terry Sigley hasn’t been used much in the first three friendlies, he is clearly very much in the frame and I think will be another who will feature in that squad, It’s hard to see past Brown and Thorne as the starting props, but the London Welsh and Ealing games may well change that. The various pieces are coming together slowly and it looks as if the selectors have a pretty good idea of the team to play on 4th.
If Coventry are to make a sustained challenge for the Championship, many of those not called up for Wharfedale will be used at some point in the season. Scott has said that DR players could be brought into the squad, but only if they are good enough. Players like Ed Milnes, Lewis Ludlam and Alex Woodburn clearly were and indeed Woodburn excelled against Cardiff. However, I can’t help but feel happier if we don’t have to rely on quite so many this year.
The link to the Coventry Evening telegraph is here: Coventry Evening Telegraph