We fly back to England on the red-eye special from San Francisco on Sunday evening, so come Monday, I’ll be back home and reading through all the various threads and posts to ascertain how Coventry fared against Loughborough on Saturday.
Coventry haven’t always travelled well in recent seasons, and last year’s game away to Loughborough was a pretty tense affair in the final few minutes as I recall, so it will be interesting to see if we can now begin to dominate teams away from the Butts in the same way that we have tended to do at home.
Loughborough are no pushovers and should be mid-table come the end of the season and so are precisely the sort of team we should be doing the double over if we are to stand any chance of promotion.
It’seems very early days to be mentioning ‘doing the double’ and ‘promotion’ in the same sentence, but I don’t think we can kid ourselves any longer, if indeed we ever were. This is the first season since our relegation from the Championship that we have clearly set out our stall with regards to achieving the top spot. The chairman, the coaches and the media have all been saying the same thing since the beginning of August; everyone connected with Coventry Rugby Football Club on and off the pitch is working towards this one goal. It’s the right time. It’s our time.
After the Wharfedale game we knew there was going to have to be changes to the team, with the injuries to Hough and Tincknell necessitating a reshuffle in the backs. Weightman’s injury means he is also unavailable. So it looks fairly likely that both Hodgson and MacBurnie will be making a swift return. Presumably, Hamilton will make way for Hodgson at full back. MacBurnie will replace Tincknell in a straight swap, allowing Hamilton to then move on to the wing? Given I’m actually writing this on the Tuesday as there’s no guarantee of a wifi connection between here – San Diego – and Santa Barbara on Friday, all this is very much speculation on my part and I could yet be proved horribly wrong. But what is very clear is that injuries are going to play a very significant part in Coventry’s season, be it successful or otherwise…or maybe not so much the injuries themselves but the manner in which Cov are able to deal effectively with them as they occur.
Tincknell is a good case in point. He is clearly going to be an important player this season; potentially a great signing for the club. However, his absence isn’t such great loss in the short term as MacBurnie is ready to step into his boots at a moment’s notice and with Sam Smith now having signed for the club, there is an additional player in reserve. Throw Canning and Ryan into the mix at full back or wing, or fly half if Owen should be unfit to play, and there’s real depth.
That’s the real difference this season, quality in abundance ready to play at a moment’s notice; players with experience of performing at a decent level and who understand exactly what is expected of them. We suffered at times last season because this just wasn’t the case. Whatever the selection for the Loughborough game, the team won’t be seriously affected by the absences of either Tincknell and Hough.
Jon Sharp’s vision, together with his financial support, over the last few years has helped create a side with the right credentials to make a sustained push for promotion. But there are still another 29 games left this season, almost 40 hours of rugby with many, many twists and turns before National One crowns its champion. As a supporter it’s so easy to get carried away by what is happening. One league win and a good pre-season realistically is hardly grounds for such optimism and Scott Morgan and the coaches will surely be urging caution and to take things a game at a time.
And rightly so…and I know I should be doing something similar. But there have been far too many seasons where there hasn’t been much in the way of success to look forward to, with a couple of notable exceptions (remember the play-off decider against London Irish?). The last 20 years or so have been more to do with mid-table mediocrity, or worse, so I make no apology for fuelling the fires of hope. It’s what we supporters do, it keeps us going through the difficult times. If it doesn’t happen this year, hey, then it will next. We Coventry supporters have learned to become a patient breed.
Although my chewed fingernails and furrowed brow suggest something different…
(A reminder that live updated will appear on the Twitter feed on the homepage of this blog).