Club talk

Under pressure…

Another good week for Coventry RFC on the media front with a very interesting piece in the Coventry Telegraph on Scott Morgan’s thoughts on the performances of the two latest recruits to the team, Joe Foreman and George Tresidder, followed by a detailed looked at Joe’s career thus far. He’s very much a local lad and someone for whom putting on the famous blue and white hoops means such a great deal.

And good to see so many posters expressing their gratitude to both John Wilkinson and the club for the increasing flow of news coming out of the Butts. It’s certainly seen as a huge step forward by the vast majority of supporters on the messageboard, although there are still some who are harder to please than others.

I’ve made clear my admiration of the work that John Wilkinson does in promoting Coventry many times during the course of the blog, whilst also expressing gratitude for the work done by Tom Little and John Butler. Although I live outside of the Coventry area and therefore don’t have access to the paper copy of the Coventry Telegraph, without fail, second thing in the morning, I’ll log on to the paper’s website and see if the latest article penned by John has gone live. First thing?  Put the kettle on.

Being somewhat removed in a geographical sense from the club, and not being one to mix with either the players or  club administrators, it’s fair to say over the years John’s words have shaped my love for, and understanding of, Coventry RFC .

As they will have done for many hundreds, and probably thousands, of others.

There will be those who won’t thank him for this, but without John’s influence this blog would never have been written. There’s always something of interest in every article, a comment or a quote from a player or coach that serves to draw me into to wanting to know more, a desire to develop things a bit further.

Like a great fishermen of old, John baits his hook, throws out the line and reels me in.  Article after article.

So much so that, prior to my retirement, I’d decided that once free of work, I’d write my own reviews and reports of Coventry’s games from a supporter’s perspective, not to share but just to explore my own thoughts and feelings about Cov.

I had intended to write a blog of my experiences of working in a Birmingham school that had been blown apart by the Trojan Horse investigations (no pun intended!), but I decided that it would inevitably involve getting myself into very deep and very hot water and would only serve to raise my blood pressure even higher than it was at the time. So having made the wise choice to give that a very wide berth, a blog on all things Cov seemed obvious.

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Clearly there is a problem in the announcement of the team to play Richmond tomorrow.

After the ‘change of system’ that prevented the team to play Loughborough Students a couple of weeks ago until the Saturday morning, last week Tom Little was able to confirm that the Coventry team ‘should be posted earlier in the week’.

Given that hasn’t happened, I can only assume that Scott Morgan is waiting on the players reactions (physical that is!) to Thursday night’s training session before making a final decision on selection.

Rob Knox (hamstring), Chad Thorne (hand?), Andy Brown (unknown) were all unavailable for the Hartpury game and I would imagine Scott would want to give them every chance of  proving their fitness before making the final announcement. In addition, Matt Price must be extremely doubtful and Alex Woodburn  still unavailable, following the head injury he suffered against Loughborough.

Whilst is always good from a supporter’s viewpoint to get the team news on a Thursday (Friday night discussions in the local become that much more interesting), I’m sure the club don’t want to have to amend the team on the Friday and/or Saturday because of withdrawals. It happened last week and I can well understand a reluctance to have to do it again.

It might be an idea, if this is indeed the reason for the non-appearance of the team, just to put a brief comment on the website to that effect so that it stops people like me speculating on the possible explanations of a deferred announcement…especially in the light of the statement the week before…

…just a thought, no more than that.

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In the first of the two articles in the Coventry Telegraph this week, as well as praising the performances of Foremen and Tresidder, Scott Morgan talked a little bit about couple of the areas of Coventry’s play that are presently frustrating him, both of which have been commented on in previous posts and by others on the messageboard.

The first is the one that has probably generated the most discussion when talking about styles of play and game plans. Scott reflected the view of many supporters during the season that:

We don’t seem to have any zip or flair, attacking people with any width, and we’ve become a little bit easy to defend against…In the past this league has had quite a loose style of play, but I think it’s tightened up quite a lot this season.”

It has been a really noticeably feature of the play this season, hasn’t it?

Part of the problem as supporters is that we were hugely spoiled last season when first Will Hurrell and Dom Lespierre and then Will and Dan Rundle ran teams ragged,  with Scot appearing to give the wings licence to run from anywhere on the pitch, creating the gaps with their pace and strength for others to profit from – maybe it wasn’t quite like that, but that’s how it seems in comparison to this season.

For whatever reason, it just hasn’t happened this year. The wings have had few chances to use the ball in space and, more often than not, play seems to be breaking down in midfield, leaving Dom and Peter Weightman having to come off the wing in search of decent ball. It must frustrate the living daylights out of them.

I’m not sure about the league tightening up so much this season, though. Fylde and Esher were anything but tight when we played them before Christmas, demonstrating a really expansive and exciting style of rugby.

I certainly think we’ve tightened up though, whether by choice or because of the loss of Will or as a result of injuries causing problems with selection in the centres on one wing.

I guess the flair must still be there in the squad as, by and large, the same players who proved so effective last year (Evans, Jones, MacBurnie, Knox, Lespierre, Hamilton, Hodgson) have all played their part this season, but the zip definitely seems to be missing.

Scott also when on to add that:

Rugby is all about pressure – putting opponents under pressure and keeping them under pressure until they make a mistake.

I don’t think we do that. We try to score our points from creating things ourselves instead of squeezing them into making mistakes which we can capitalise on – there’s a big difference.

I have to admit, I got a little lost at this point. Having mentioned the absence of ‘zip or flair’, he seems to suggest here that creating things ourselves isn’t something we should be doing, instead we should be pressurising the opposition, squeezing them in their own half and waiting for them to make mistakes and for us to pounce on them and use them to our own advantage. Once seems to contradict the other.

Now to me, that doesn’t require flair, nor much zip either – it requires great defence, albeit in the opposition’s half, great fitness and strength too, but there’s not a huge amount of creativity required. I’m all for it, if it has the desired effect (teams who have adopted that approach do well against us for the most part as we are ‘the architects of our own downfall’ at times), but as a spectator I guess this becomes the equivalent of the long ball game in football – effective but not hugely entertaining for the purists. The break from our own 22, or the chip and chase over the on-rushing opposition’s backs might not always come off, but hey, it’s always great fun to watch.

And that’s the problem Scott has.

He can’t afford for the team to make mistakes in their own half, let alone in their own 22. Even if 50% of the time a bit of magic from Le Roux or Knox or Dom pays off, well 50% of the time it doesn’t, and most teams in the league are good enough to make you pay dearly for such errors.

As he says:

We’re trying to do things from deep, as you saw from our first try at Hartpury. We’re trying to create those types of tries from the halfway line when we should really be saying no, let’s get into their 22, squeeze them so we get the ball back and see what we can do in a sensible area of the pitch.

Sometimes that’s extremely boring, but it gives you the proper platform.

And having thought it through, Scott is right, much as it pains me to say so from an aesthetic point of view. If Coventry are to play their way out of this poor run of results and get some positives from the second half of the season, then they aren’t going to do so by playing champagne rugby. It’s back to the basics, do the simple things well and let your opponents overcomplicate things.

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Rugby is all about pressure – putting opponents under pressure and keeping them under pressure until they make a mistake.

Under pressure….

In the week that saw the death of music legend David Bowie, it seems particularly apt that this should be the team’s focus on Saturday. Rather than us being under pressure, let’s do a little role reversal.

Richmond, it’s your turn this week.

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Perhaps the most important thing to come out of the week for me though is that I do now better understand what it is that Scott Morgan and the coaches are trying to achieve. Okay, it might not be a style of play I’d choose to watch by choice, but if it means we start winning and in doing so beat some of the top teams in the league in the process, well that’s all fine and dandy with me.

And the reason I do understand it now goes back to the introduction and the willingness of the club, through the Head of Rugby, to work with John Wilkinson to provide spectators with the information they need to gain a more informed understanding of what is happening on the pitch.

John’s posts  on the messageboard yesterday gave us an insight as to how the information gets from the club to newspaper, but they should also have taught us all an important lesson…

…and a much appreciated one it is, too.

Clearly working with Coventry over the problems it’s had with communicating with supporters, rather than against them, is the best way forward.

Lesson learned.

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