What, if anything, can we read into Coventry’s team to face Ealing on Saturday? Well quite a lot, as it happens. Whatever team was to be selected, there were always going to be two enforced changes, notably at second row and in the centres. Ben Thomas, injured in last week’s game against Welsh, is unavailable and Rob Knox has also picked up an injury. On Twitter, Dave Addleton suggested that Thomas would be out for two to three weeks, I don’t know the extent of Rob’s absence. Weightman’s last minute withdrawal from the side is no surprise, given his injury in Cardiff; hopefully, he’ll be fit and available for selection next week.
What is already becoming clear is that Coventry’s policy of having at least two quality players available for each position is going to be tested, even at this early state. With both Wolfsenden and now Thomas out through injury, only Poole, Roberts and Wright are available in the second row and with Wright expressing a preference for the back row, this only leaves two first choice locks available. Another injury on Saturday and we could be back to the problems of last season.
The scenario is very different in the backs, with the likes of Smith and presumably Ryan and/or Canning available, there are far more options. Sam Smith has impressed in the relatively short time he has been on the pitch so far, so surely his selection tomorrow is an opportunity for the coaches to get a better look at him rather than a statement of intent. Callum MacBurnie has done little wrong so far and given he was Knox’s first choice partner last season, one must assume this will again be the case when the league games start next week. Defensively, Callum is a rock, although he does not offer the attacking options of Tincknell.
With Jones back in the side following an absence of two games following a minor injury the backs, Smith aside, look pretty much the done deal, the only question being whether Hodgson or Hamilton starts. Tough call, either way, but I think given his ability to win games with his boot, I’d go for Hodgson, with Ryan on the bench and Weightman returning on the wing if fit. I’m not sure whether there’s sufficient room there for either Hamilton or Canning as well…and who would cover for an injured Evans (heaven forfend!)…Hodgson, perhaps?
The back row is taking shape, too. Oliver and Pailor start, as they surely must next week, with Tom Preece getting the nod at No 8. I still think Molitika is the man, but Preece did well against Welsh and deserves another chance and I’m sure Loti will get a run, too. Woodburn must be close to a starting place …I just don’t think it’s possible to second guess the backrow and it will very much depend on what the coaches feel is the best combination. Plenty of strength in depth there.
In the front row Price again starts, with Hope to come on at some stage. Given the lineout was such a concern last week, it will be very interesting to see if there is an improvement in this area…Coventry will struggle to win close games against the stronger teams in National One if they lose possession on their throw as regularly as they did against both Broadstreet and London Welsh. Hope for me next week, with Pricey on the bench.
Good to see Parkins back; whether he starts or not against Wharfedale, he’ll have an important role to play this season and despite Stout having a couple of disappointing games last season, he has Championship experience with Rotherham and will be another very important squad player.
It should be a really interesting game…and if Cov play to their strengths and avoid losing soft ball as they did against London Welsh, then I can see us causing something of an upset. The Ealing squad sees several changes and with some players appearing for the first time (Ealing side to face Coventry), there won’t be the understanding amongst the players that comes with continuity. It is certainly a good time to be playing them…hopefully, with the support of another big crowd, Coventry can do to Ealing at BPA what they did last year. And wouldn’t that set things up nicely for the opening of the league season in just 9 days time!