Feb 13th 2016/Sept 5th 2015
FB – Scott Hamilton – Scott Hamilton
W – Dom Lespierre – Dom Lespierre
C – Cliffie Hodgson Capt – James Tinknell
C – Sam Smith – Rob Knox
W – Ryan Hough – Ryan Hough
FH – Caolan Ryan – Matt Jones
SH – George Tresidder – Wayne Evans
PR – Andy Brown – Andy Brown
H – Matt Price – Matt Price
PR – Loma Kivalu – Adam Parkins
SR – Danny Wright – Courtney Roberts
SR – Tom Hicks – Tom Poole
WF – Sam Pailor – Sam Pailor
WF – Alex Woodburn – George Oliver
N8 – Dan Carpo – Tom Preece
Looking at the team for Saturday, it’s very different from the one that started the campaign back in September with a win against Wharfedale.
Only 5 players who started that game back then are included in the team to play Rosslyn Park and it also includes another 5 players who weren’t even with the club come the start of the league campaign. Saturday’s team is the result of a catalogue of injuries and problems on and off the field that have left the squad decimated. Scott Morgan and his coaches are down to the bare bones now and it’s almost a question of damage limitation over the remainder of the season, or at least until others begin to recover from injuries and regain match fitness.
That sounds as if I’m being negative, again…but far from it. The players out there have much to prove, not just to the coaches and supporters but to each other and to themselves. They’ve taken a fair bit of criticism of late, criticism that must be ringing in their ears at the moment. When seasoned supporters on the messageboard talk about players ‘not being fit to wear the shirt’ and feeling ‘a disconnect with the team’, then there is much work that needs to be done both on and off the pitch to restore pride and regain confidences, although for the record, neither are views that I’d share…
Whilst I might have had plenty to say (too much perhaps) about concerns regarding the club’s handling of the announcement of Rowland Winter’s appointment, I don’t hold in being openly critical of individual players, unless it’s about form or maybe technique, although I tend to leave that to the experts. I’ve never, ever bought into the belief that players don’t give their all when they represent this club – that in some way aren’t trying their best either personally or for the team. It’s just an anathema to me…
Players lack confidence or suffer a loss of form, but that is very different from not giving their all. If Cov lose, as far as I see it, they lose because they’re not good enough, their discipline lets them down, the game plan didn’t work or a 1000 other reasons, but never because they didn’t give it their best shot. And besides, if you go to a tackle in a half-hearted way or if you don’t scrummage to the best of your ability, you risk injury to yourself or to your team. No, it just doesn’t make sense to me.
Often, players come to National 1 to test themselves at this level. Some find it’s where they should be, others thrive and move on up through the leagues and, for some, it’s a step too far and after a season they are forced to leave for a more junior club. All come here with aspirations and expectations…and I guess for some players this season, neither of those two things have been achieved.
Inevitably there will be a turnover of players, it happens every season – with the arrival of a Director of Rugby, this year will be no exception and given the fact that some players haven’t been able to retain a regular place in the side, or haven’t convinced the coaches that they can perform at a level expected of the club when they were signed, we can probably expected more than usual number of departures. It going to be a merry-go-round for sure.
Another factor in all this might simply be that players might wish to move on, either because they feel it’s appropriate at that point in their rugby playing career or because they don’t feel that a change in the DofR might mean less, rather than more, opportunities for them.
Whatever is in the minds of those going out to onto the pitch on Saturday, the game represents another major challenge. And for anyone involved in sport at any level, challenge must be one of the single most important driving forces. It’s a player’s raison d’être. That’s why I can’t conceive of anyone playing for Coventry, or any other club in this or any other league, not giving of their best. Perhaps I’m being a little naïve here…perhaps.
What is clear, though, is this is another opportunity for players to stake a late claim to a more regular place in the team, or if that’s not possible, then at least to get themselves noticed. Many players put together Youtube clips of their best bits from the previous season as a way of promoting themselves – a good performance against Rosslyn Park could do individuals no harm at all, especially those looking to move on or concerned that a new contract might not be forthcoming.
Players who will be on the move come April and who haven’t had much game time with Cov will want to make the most of every minute on the pitch, whilst those hoping to stay on will want to make sure they continue to do enough to impress those drawing up the contracts, where appropriate, come the end of the season. Were this one of the last couple of fixtures, with little or nothing to play for, then maybe there would be less intensity (which is different from effort, I think) but there is a great deal at stake at The Rock on Saturday.
Pride must also be a factor, too. In many eyes Cov will be the clear underdogs on Saturday and with some of the comments that will have been read by the players this week, then perhaps there are some individual, and collective points to be made. And boy, do I hope they are made! And I love us to get a ‘w’ on Saturday for Scott Morgan’s sake as well…
That’s why I think the match might be a better one than many might believe. So much so that I think we’ll come away with the win…it will be close and it might well not be the most expansive of wins given the changes in the backs and the dearth of tries being scored outside of the pack at the moment. But I do think we could get something from the game.
It must be one of the strongest benches we’ve assembled all season: Chad Thorne, Devlin Hope, Ben Thomas, Wayne Evans, Peter Weightman, so there are options for changes should they be needed. And spare a thought for Devlin Hope, back on the bench and gutted by the sound of it.
With Matt Price in a rich vein of form, Devlin must be one of the unluckiest players in the squad – his tenacity, passion and commitment to the cause and to the club are exactly what makes him such an asset, especially on occasions like tomorrow (for me Sam P, Danny W, Andy B, Dom and Cliffie also have that in common).
There are positions in the team when players can sometimes double up – centres, wing, second row, back row, but hooker is such a specialist position that those that play there aren’t really suited to playing elsewhere (although Matt has propped and Devlin has stood in as a wing forward). It’s real shame…I’d like to see him play more regularly, but not at the expense of Matt who also offers very similar qualities. Both are characters, players that you’d want in the side – that Cov can only play the one is a great shame. Perhaps he could have 15 minutes at full back if Scott shows signs of tiring…?
I’m looking forward to the game…not so much the traveling or the expense (see yesterday’s post!), but certainly the game itself. I’d really love Cov to put in a really good shift, rather like they did against Richmond. It’s something we’re capable of, although we tend not to produce such memorable performances away from home…but it’s always on the cards. Win or lose, it’s about the manner of the performance, but a win would be a real vindication for a team made up of several players who have been on the fringes all season and had little chance to perform at this level.
And so the second Coventry player leaves the squad in a little over a week.
Tom Preece’s departure came out of the blue to most of us I imagine, but Tom’s move to London Irish is a an opportunity for him to prove himself at the highest of club levels and I can only wish him well. Anyone one in his position should take the chance when it does come, because such opportunities are few and far between.
And as was mentioned by one poster on the messageboard – good on the club for releasing him too, especially when by doing so we are down to our last recognised no 8, given that Jacques Le Roux is unlikely to be back for a while. Daniel Carpo needs to be wrapped in cotton wool for the remainder of the season (and to avoid him further stress, hire him a car rather than rely on London Midland…).
Without a word from the club, we don’t know if he had a release clause that meant if a premier team came in for him, he could leave – or whether they decided to let him go anyway. There’s no reason why the club need to give an explanation (other than to avoid speculation), but it does sadden me that here again we have a player leaving the club and there is no official statement made, if only to wish him well and thank him for his efforts whilst here. I always thought it was an unwritten ‘law’ – what ever the circumstances of the departure from a club, whatever the sport, you said a public ‘thank you and goodbye’.
The same was true of Courtney and to some extent of Scott’s ‘demotion’ – a comment, officially on the website from the Board, would have been the right gesture. It’s sad that the club seems to have lost some of it’s old-fashioned values in its move towards a more modern, ‘professional’ approach. The two, to me, aren’t and never should be mutually exclusive – it’s just a question of balance.
On the front of the website the club have rightly made a big feature of Andy Brown’s England Counties call up, albeit a copy of JW’s Coventry Telegraph feature. Huge congratulations to Andy – he’s been the cornerstone of the front row for a couple of seasons now, an automatic choice in the front row and a player who gets seldom gets the plaudits he deserves. Great news that he’s hoping to stay on next season…
In contrast there’s nothing about departures or appointments.
News is news….good or bad.
It shouldn’t really be cherry-picked.
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I love the look of it, if only because it’s so different.
I just know someone’s going to embarrass me and say they’ve been using it for the last couple of away games.
I guess if it doesn’t make an appearance on Saturday then we won’t see it this side of September…I’m sure that even the club is synonymous with the traditional blue and white hoops, there will be plenty of interest in this and I’m sure there would be a fair few of these dotted around the crowd, especially when it gets a bit warmer.
Definitely a fashion statement…although quite what that statement is, I’m not so sure.