And so to Esher…
I’m really interested to see the team news. After two consecutive performances that never lived up to their billings, will the coaches stick with the team that lost at home to Rosslyn Park or will they opt for changes to facilitate players returning from injury and a gameplan encouraging less lateral, and more forward, thinking?
Whilst waiting for some news, any news, I thought I’d have a go at selecting two different sides for Saturday’s game.
The first is the team I’d select from the full squad, as of Monday 2nd November, discounting any injuries or enforced absences. This would be my ‘dream team’, the team I want representing Coventry both because I’d expect it to do well and because I think it would play a far more expansive and attractive style of rugby, one that would get the punters back through the turnstiles in a way that hasn’t happened so far this season. In other words, a winning team that would put bums on seats increasing average attendances and getting everyone smiling at the same time.
The second team I’d select would be the one that I feel is the strongest picked from the players who are currently available, one which therefore excludes any player unavailable through enforced absence, whatever the reason. I’m no expert, so I expect this will be pretty different from the actual team selected for the Esher game, but it’s an interesting exercise in itself and one that inevitable causes plenty of discussion. Please feel free to add changes that you’d make via the comments section below!
So, here they are then:
Dream Team v Esher My team v Esher
Position Name Position Name
15 Hodgson 15 Hamilton
14 Lespierre 14 Lespierre
13 Tincknell 13 Tincknell
12 Knox 12 Knox
11 Rundle 11 Weightman
10 Jones 10 Jones
9 Evans 9 Evans
1 Kivalu 1 Kivalu
2 Hope 2 Hope
3 Parkins 3 Parkins
4 Poole 4 Poole
5 Roberts 5 Roberts
6 Woodburn 6 Pailor
7 Oliver 7 Oliver
8 Le Roux 8 Carpo
16 Price – fr 16 Price – fr
17 Brown – fr 17 Brown – fr
18 Carpo 18 Le Roux
19 Lee-Everton 19 Lee-Everton
20 Ryan 20 Ryan
TR 1 Preece TR 1 Thorne
TR 2 MacBurnie TR 2 MacBurnie
(Names in red denote players currently injured).
It’s actually harder to do than I’d imagined it would be when I first decided to give it a go. What surprised me most was that my ‘actual’ team for Saturday, the one I’d select on the basis of current ability, is only four players short of being my ‘dream team’, so were this to be the side selected, it should be a pretty strong one by my reckoning.
In the backs, the big question mark for me was at full-back where I opted for Hodgson in the end over Hamilton because he’s the best kicker we have in the squad and he also scored a hatful of important tries last season. I think the centre pairing of Knox and Tincknell is the strongest, but both MacBurnie and Smith might feel aggrieved. Callum is especially strong in defence and Sam has done well since his debut but hasn’t got the experience of either MacBurnie or Tincknell. Rundle is an obvious choice at 11, as is Jones at 10. He is one of the first names on the team sheet for me and Evans, whilst he might not have had the best of times this last month, is still a class act.
In the pack, the front row selects itself purely on the basis of what it did to the Rosslyn Park scrum a couple of weeks ago. I might have to have a rethink in a couple of games time, but I’m sticking with Kivalu, Hope and Parkins for the time being. Hope or Price at hooker – tough call really, but given the lineout seems a problem whoever is throwing the ball in, I just think Hope offers a little more mobility around the park. Both would get on during the course of the game, whoever started.
At second row Poole is always going to take his place at 5, he’s made it his own. I can only think something must have gone on behind the scenes for him not to have played against Park. He and Roberts have probably been the best pairing we’ve had so far, but Tom Hicks and Martin Wolfenden are as yet untried this season, so that could change. Ben Tomas had a decent debut, but wasn’t so effective for me against Rosslyn Park, hence his omission. Probably the biggest surprise for some might be the back row, where I’ve opted for Le Roux and Woodburn. Le Roux, if fit, is a great ball carrier and there have been glimpses of that in the last couple of games whilst Woodburn is quick; very quick. I worry that Oliver, Le Roux (or Carpo) and Pailor, whilst big and strong in attack, might not be so quick to the breakdown and certainly we were undone against Fylde in this area. Oliver is another Poole or Jones for me. An automatic choice.
On the bench, Ryan is the backs’ replacement because he is probably the most versatile, able to play fly-half and full-back and if necessary wing, although we know Tincknell could also drop into that role as he did against Park. Carpo comes in as a back row/second row replacement, although it was a tough call between him, Preece and Pailor.
The enforced changes from the ‘dream team’ aren’t particularly controversial ones. At full-back it’s a choice between Hamilton and Ryan, but Hamilton’s experience probably counts for more here. However, Hamilton wouldn’t be as versatile coming off the bench, so there’s no place for him in the dream team squad as he doesn’t offer the coaches quite the same options coming on as a replacement. Weightman gets the nod at 11 even though he sill doesn’t look match fit. Tincknell could move to the wing and allow MacBurnie to partner Knox as he did for much of last season, but I’m not sure Tincknell would be as effective out wide.
The front 5 in the scrum are the same but in the backrow I’ve gone for Carpo, even though I’ve got Le Roux in my ‘dream team’ – this is because I don’t think Le Roux is match fit yet and needs a bit more game time whilst Carpo, fresh from his World Cup exploits, should be as fit as he’s ever going to be. With Woodburn unavailable, Pailor comes in, but I do have that worry about a lack of genuine pace. However, if the backs are given a bit more freedom, maybe it won’t be quite such an issue.
MacBurnie, Thorne, Thomas, Wolfenden, Smith, Preece, Hicks, Stout, Malitika and Canning (who might well have featured had we seen a little more of him prior to his injury) have every reason to feel disappointed, but that’s where myself and the other coaches would have to have the difficult conversations, but at least we’d have them.
I know it’s all rather academic, but I think both teams would equip themselves well and certainly would have instructions from me as their ‘dream manager’ to go and express themselves on the pitch. I’d ban the kicking away of the ball aimlessly (hefty fines for that), those in receipt of yellow cards would have to wash all the club kit that week and if the team lose, then they’d all have to hold a q+a session in front of a selected panel of posters from the Messageboard.
Now that would be an incentive to win.
Fortunately, though, it won’t be necessary …