Some good news, some old news and something to savour…
Since the announcement of Rowland Winter’s appointment, many supporters have asked questions regarding Scott’s position that of the players; will he stay on, what will happen with regard to recruitment for next season given that a new D0R won’t be coming into office until April/June and what is the likely response of the senior players in the team, the likes of Evans and Jones, brought in by Morgan and probably still loyal to him?
The position is becoming a little clearer this week.
At Rosslyn Park last week, the rumour was that Rowland Winter had visited the previous Tuesday’s training session and spoken with Scott. He defintely was at Broadstreet this Tuesday at the team’s evening practice/training session, although it was stressed to me that this was an ‘unofficial’ visit.
Given the DoR elect is contracted to Cambridge until the end of the season, it couldn’t be anything more but I’m sure that they will be aware that he will be having regular communication with the club (oh, the irony) in the run up to his departure.
I’m certainly relieved to know this as it suggests that Rowland Winter is keen to get to grips with the present structures and an understanding of the current squad. If he’s already meeting with Scott, then I should imagine that he’s looking at the areas that need strengthening and will be beginning to have talks with the players, if he hasn’t done so privately already.
A man on a mission.
If the transition between the present Head of Rugby and the new Director of Rugby is relative smooth, if not seamless, come April, then it will make the whole process of change far less difficult than it might otherwise be. By meeting up now, with three months still to go, there should be far fewer surprises over the close season. Time to talk, time to meet, time to work together.
And a word, too, for Scott and the coaches. not the first and by no means the last. The last month or so must have been a particularly difficult time for them, especially if they were kept in the dark about the appointment as was indicated in the recent CT interview with John Wilkinson.
Mick Carter was absolutely right in stating on the messageboard that this is, indeed, still very much Scott’s team and many supporters are very appreciative that Scott came to us in the first place as a player, stuck with us as a coach and then agreed to take over the role as DoR…the last two positions for no additional remuneration above that which he received as a player.
Like some others, I would like him to stay; anyone of his experience and who clearly is so passionate about the club warrants a different role given the successes he has achieved over the last few seasons.
If there is to be a backlash, and I hope there isn’t but in such situations there often is, then I hope it’s directed somewhere other than at Scott…
There was another excellent feature in the Coventry Telegraph this week, this time focusing on Cliffie Hodgson a few days after breaking the 1000 league points barrier – a first for the club.
John Wilkinson has produced several of these now and each one has provided insights into players or the club that as supporters we wouldn’t have known otherwise.
Cliffie is clearly a very unassuming young man, and at 26 has the opportunity to break many more club records should he wish to stay on. Whilst Jacques Le Roux, Andy Brown and Joe Foreman all talked about wanting to stay on but Cliffie was a little less forthcoming when he said:
I have my goals at the start of each season – scoring points, being influential in the team and playing my part in promotion – and that has not changed since I started here. It’s the ultimate goal and won’t change as long as I am a Coventry player.
No clues there, then…
Cliffie is exactly the kind of player I think we should be making every effort to retain. I was surprised that he lost the captaincy this year and I remember putting it down to the fact that maybe the club felt that he might struggle to get into the side when everyone is available…as it happens, he ended playing in three different position last weekend.
His contributions are vital and depending on appointments over the close season, I’d be tempted to reappoint him as captain in the absence of another natural leader on the pitch (nb Price, Oliver, Pailor or even Hope were he to be a regular – all lead by example, have a real passion in their play and have the ‘Cov dog’ – the missing factor in our more pedestrian performances).
In the interview, Cliffie made a couple of telling comments, at least I thought they were. It’s always worth listening to how players see things as they have a far greater insight into what is happening on the pitch than we do as spectators. And when talking about the injury crisis this season in conversation with JW, Cliffie said:
We’ve had injuries in vital positions and at vital stages of the season – losing Matt Jones was quite big for us, and with the little knocks players are getting now they are never 100 per cent, but that’s part of the game and we just have to adapt.
The fact that he singles out the loss of one player is unusual in itself, but the fact that it’s Matt Jones is a pretty good indication of just how important Matt is and how much his absence has affected Coventry’s performances. If anyone should understand Matt’s contribution, it will be Cliffie – himself a fly half of note and someone who has played alongside him many times.
I was really surprised when some criticism was directed at Matt earlier in the season and said as much in response. I think Matt was crucial in the club’s success last season and whilst Dan Rundle, Dom Lespierre and Will Hurrell scored the tries, Matt controlled the backline exceptionally well; he, Rob Knox and Callum MacBurnie were also very much a force to be reckoned with.
Quick passes, longer passes missing out one or more centres and deft chips over the onrushing defence are all Matt Jones trademarks and when he is on song, he is a pleasure to watch. Sometimes his tactical kicking out of hand hasn’t always met with everyone’s approval, but he’s the best fly half we’ve had at The Butts for quite some time – perhaps since Myles Dorian who grew in stature whilst with us and deserved the opportunity to move on to bigger and better things. Myles was here early on in his career, Matt is probably finishing his here.
Defensively, too, he put in some massive shifts (especially this season where we have had to defend far more than last season)…and whilst others have played at 10 since his injury, no one has yet been able to replace him.
Clearly the players have missed him on the pitch and for me it is an area we need to strengthen. Had Adam Canning not fallen ill, he would have been an ideal replacement but Caolan Ryan has looked a better 15 to me than he has a 10 and has been most dangerous when breaking from deep. It will be interesting to see, if Matt stays, whether the club opt to further strengthen this position and, if he leaves. to whom they will look to replace him.
Cliffie also summed up very succinctly what everyone who was at Rosslyn Park was thinking post-match:
We’re not playing well and we’re not winning, which is affecting confidence. I think the last ten minutes at Rosslyn Park when we played a lot more expansively showed that everyone is playing for their pride and for the team, and we all gave it everything to get the win.
I don’t think anyone would have questioned the efforts the team put in for the whole game and there was pride in that last 15 minutes or so that hasn’t always been as evident in some of the other games we’ve played this season. Confidence does seem at a low ebb and too many mistakes, often very basic ones, mean that Cov are on the back foot from the word go, even to the extent of dropping kick offs and restarts. Yellow cards, penalties that allow teams to kick for the corner, an inability to stop the rolling maul…all these being repeated game after game have resulted in a lack of confidence.
But if Cliffie and the others players who were out there on Saturday use that last 15 minutes as their focus for the Esher game and can start the game with that intensity, then confidence will come flooding back. And the ability in the team isn’t, for me, in question…if everything clicks into place Esher are going to find The Butts are hard place to play, especially when the crowd gets behind Cov, as surely they will.
The squad has yet to be announced for the game, but I’m hoping that the bulk of the players who ended the game against Rosslyn Park will start against Esher. they might not be our strongest side on paper, but they did enough to warrant another chance to put things right, even if it is so very late in the season.
And with Rowland Winter already taking an interest in training sessions and clearly working with the coaches, there is still much to play for and the season is far from over for the individual players even though it is for the team. Those players who are still hopeful of staying on next year but have yet to convince the club to offer them a contract have much to prove and the new DoR will surely be accessing a recording of the game to look closely at various aspects of play to identify where the strengths and weaknesses are.
It will be an exciting afternoon’s rugby in prospect and I’ll be going to the ground in an optimistic mood. In fine dining parlance, the last 15 minutes of the Park game was merely an amuse-bouche, tomorrow we get to sample the entrée…
It will be an afternoon to savour…