With the amount of injuries we’ve suffered over the last few games, the announcement of the Coventry team to play Hartpury comes as something of a relief. Although both Tom Preece and Scott Hamilton are out, the inclusion of Tom Poole is welcome news given that he looked to have been a real doubt when he left the pitch on Saturday. Taking absolutely nothing away from either Preece or Hamilton, of the three I can’t help feel that Poole’s presence on the pitch is more significant than the absence of the other two.
Hamilton has huge experience and is an obvious leader, but Poole is the heartbeat of the scrum, someone who leads by example, is a dominant force in both the lineout and loose and with two other locks unavailable at the moment, the club would be hard-pressed to replace him. He is a colossus. His partnership with Courtney Roberts is already starting to blossom and I’m sure both would walk into most teams in this division.
Tom Preece has started really well, but his replacement, Loti Molitika, has always excelled whenever he has worn the blue and white hoops and although not as quick as
Tom, his strength both in attack and defence is impressive. I like the way he plays, he’s committed in everything he does and, to be fair, he was in my starting line-up for the first game against Wharfedale. I hope Tom makes a speedy recovery as competition for places is important and will keep everyone in the squad on their toes.
Hamilton’s absence allows Sam Baker to make his debut for the club. I’m presuming that this is the same Sam Baker who played for Cinderford last season, but if it is then his move to Cov has passed me by – I guess it must have happened whilst I was away? Good luck, Sam.* Without Morgan or Hamilton on the pitch, the likes of Evans, Hodgson, and Jones will have to be even more influential, both as players and leaders.
It seems clear that Scott Morgan is happy to pick his strongest team each week, rather than rotate his players so that everyone gets match experience whilst avoiding the inevitable frustrations of players eager for selection. I agree with this approach…this season it’s all about winning matches and you do that by playing the best team available. As we have already seen, injuries could happen to anyone at anytime, so players who haven’t yet made an appearance will be likely to do so at some point in the season. It must be exasperating for those who haven’t yet been selected, but the likes of MacBurnie and Molitika weren’t in the team that played Wharfedale and now look set for a decent run. Much better this way than make wholesale changes to keep players happy and end up losing a game we should have won. Tinkering with your match day teams doesn’t seem to work. Ask Ranieri.
On Radio 5 Live today, All Black legend Andrew Mehrtens said he thought New Zealand had an advantage over other teams this World Cup because they had two or even three world-class players for every position in a squad built over the last six or seven years. Whilst in no way seeking to make a comparison between Coventry and the All Blacks, Cov’s retention of the bulk of the squad over the last two or three years and it’s recruitment of players at least as good as those already here has reaped dividends. Hopefully, it gives us the edge in our league, too.
The local press has been effusive in its coverage of Coventry this week. Dave Addleton ‘hails the pack power’ that resulted in the convincing defeat of Loughborough last weekend and John WIlkinson talks of Coventry ‘throwing down the gauntlet’ to the rest of National One (Dave Addleton – CET and John Wilkinson – CET). Both reflect the mood of optimism that continues to permeate everything that is happening at the BPA at the moment. Certainly, supporters believe this could be our season with Scott Morgan and Dave Addleton right to be delighted with what has happened in the opening two fixtures. There’s definitely of reasons to believe we should be in the frame come April 2016.
But for that to happen we have got to continue playing with the same confidence and self-belief. Success breeds success. Whilst the World Cup is great news for the country, it remains to be seen whether the televised games will impact on Saturday’s attendance. Coventry have played an hugely entertaining brand of rugby deserving of a larger crowd than the 1250+ that attended the first home game of the season. The bigger the winning run, the more interest the club generates.
So here’s to win No. 3.
*confirmed on unoffy site after post was written – phew!