With Coventry frustratingly tight-lipped this week about the progress made by players on the injury list, I don’t think anyone not in the know could have guessed the team selected to play Plymouth Albion tomorrow. Not even get close…I’m not really surprised the Cov coaches have kept their cards tightly to their chests though. Whilst it may be frustrating for supporters, it also means Saturday’s opponents are somewhat in the dark, too. Don’t give them any advantage, however small!
Seven changes to the team (in terms of players) that lost so poorly against Richmond seems at first sight something of a knee-jerk reaction, although there’s nothing like wholesale changes to show the players that there’s no permanence in the team for anyone, however experienced. But there’s no Deep Tendon Reaction here, the changes are not a panic response on the part of Scott Morgan at all but merely the result of players returning from injury. Good work, physios. Healing hands means back to work…if that’s not a proverb then it certainly should be.
Four of the players, Messrs. Tincknell, Weightman, Parkins and Thomas are all coming back then from injury or, in Parkins’ case, from illness, so there’s no real surprise there. Sam Smith wasn’t someone who I’d included in my ‘probable’ team for the weekend, but with Knox injured and MacBurnie not proving quite the presence, either in attack or defence, he was last year, tit makes complete sense to give Sam a run out, especially as he looked so strong on the occasions he played in the pre-season friendlies.
With this new midfield, there’s plenty of attacking options, especially with James Tincknell supported by the pace of Lespierre
and physicality/pace of Weightman, but also there should be more resilience in defence. As far as Plymouth are concerned, I’m hoping it’s a question of coming from Brickfields to brick walls. I was gutted when Peter Weightman was injured so early on in the season (the Cardiff friendly, I think?) and although it will take a couple of games for him to settle into the side, I’m sure he’s going to be a great signing. A bit of a Hurrell for me, and that’s as big a compliment as you can give.
Great to see James T back, too, and even though it we’re still awaiting his link partnership with Rob Knox, a pairing that really whets the appetite, he and Sam Smith will do the business. I’m certain of that.
Caolan Ryan deservedly keeps his place at full back which is a big vote of confidence from Scott Morgan, but I’m surprised that the other Scott, Scott Hamilton, isn’t on the bench. The experience he offered when he came on in the second half last week was obvious and his presence did help to galvanise the side a little. I wonder if he’s injured or the feeling is that with all the various changes this week, there’s a lot more experience in the side. I’d like to see Wayne Evans be a little more vocal on the pitch tomorrow; if he and Matt Jones have good games Plymouth are really going to have a difficult afternoon.
But for me, the really interesting changes are in the forwards. I’m so pleased Devlin Hope has been given his first start…that’s to take nothing away from Matt Price who represents everything that you’d want in a Cov player and always, always gives his all. But I think if Cov get a decent amount of possession and are able to run with it, Hope offers a little bit more in terms of his speed and agility around the pitch. He is a terrier in defence, too, and seems strong in the scrum. Line-outs haven’t been as consistent as they should be, but that is true with Matt P as well. Much deserved and hopefully no yellow cards! Adam Parkins will add more solidity to the scrum, and his pairing with Andy Brown would be my first choice, too, so it’s good news all round for me.
With Ben Thomas returning to the second row, we’ve probably got our best pairing there as well, although Courtney Roberts did himself great credit in the opening games and is sure to feature a lot in games this season. It’s also great to see George Oliver back, although his absence last week is still something of a mystery. However, George works exceptionally hard, with much of what he does going unnoticed, but he puts in a lot of defensive work and is quick to the breakdown. He and Woodburn and Pailor seem to be the best options at the moment, even though I do like watching the way Loti Molitika plays his rugby. With Jacques Le Roux and Daniel Carpo coming into contention soon, there will be far more choice available.
On the bench, welcome back JLR! If he can recapture his form of a couple of seasons ago before the run of injuries started, it would almost be like having a new addition to the squad. A crowd favourite, there aren’t many better sights than Jacques rampaging though the middle of the pitch leaving flailing tacklers in his wake.
This is an exciting team, one much closer to a best starting XV than we’ve been able to put out this season so far. It’s going to take a while for some of the newer faces to bed in and I’m sure the crowd will need to have a bit of patience whilst they settle, but this is potentially a very strong side. Plymouth will be a really well-drilled outfit and although they are almost a new squad this year, they have had the opening 4 games to get used to each other and to life in a different league. It’s going to be a tough, tough game. A bigger crowd, continued belief that Coventry are going to be in the mix come the end of the season and the players putting in a good 80 minute shift and tomorrow evening things will look a whole lot rosier.
Red rosier…a good omen for England, too…