22nd August – Groundhog day?
Whatever else they are, London Welsh are a most attractive side and given reasonable conditions underfoot, today’s game should provide just reward to those loyal supporters who have waited patiently since the Cardiff game…for a top class game at Coundon Road. Open rugby should be the order of the day and that will certainly suit us.
Thus read the programme notes from Coventry’s London Welsh encounter at Coundon Road some 40 years ago; on 1st March 1975 to be exact. That we should also happen to play Cardiff last week is something of a coincidence…let’s hope, then, that Saturday’s game is an open one, as I’m sure that would suit our free-scoring backs, even without the likes of Duckham, Preece, Evans and Rossborough.
With the team now announced, things continue to take shape. With Evans returning at scrum half, the three-quarters looks almost at full strength. Only six of the replacements are backs – Harrison Lee Everton, Adam Canning, Callum MacBurnie, Sam Smith, Ryan Hough, Cliffie Hodgson. Realistically, of these Hodgson and MacBurnie could get the nod over Tincknell and Hamilton against Wharfedale (although Saturday’s incumbents are the most likely choices). The others are likely to be on the bench at best, with Jones coming in for Ryan for the first league game. Canning and Ryan, look most likely to the replacements because of their versatility.
The make-up of the forwards is much harder to read. Andy Brown and Chad Thorne have had a lot of game time and must be favourites to start against Wharfedale. Price, for Hope, suggests that the coaches want to give Matt another longer run out as he didn’t appear in the first two games and looked a little ring-rusty last week (rather an unfortunately expression really, given his combative performance in the second half against Cardiff!). Foreman, Sigley, Hope and Parkins are a really formidable quartet to have on the sidelines; better than anything I can recall for many a year.
Tom Poole must be one of the first names pencilled in on the team sheet in two weeks time, so his absence from the starting line-up on Saturday means that Courtney Roberts and Ben Thomas will have the chance to impress. For me, in the back row, perhaps only one of Danny Wright, Alex Woodburn and Tom Preece is likely to make the final XV on the 4th, as George Oliver, Sam Pailor and Loti Molitika have done enough already to make them the most likely choices…and with Danny Wright and Joe Carpenter also in the mix and Jacques Le Roux yet to return, there is real competition for places at 6, 7 and 8. The coaches will know the best combination of players and still have time to experiment with different permutations. Whilst Phil Maynard also mentioned Liam Munroe as a name to throw into the mix, the fact he is at Broadstreet means he is likely to have to wait a little longer before he gets his chance.
Whatever side London Welsh brings to BPA, it is sure to be yet another step up for Coventry and the performance, rather than the outcome, should provide a further indication of the club’s promotion credentials this coming season.
Hopefully, I’ll provide live updates on the Twitter feed to be found on the homepage throughout the game.