The depth of the injury crisis currently blighting Coventry really hit home yesterday with the news of the team selected to play Cinderford later today.
Whilst the forwards look a reasonably strong unit, it seems as if Scott Morgan has been forced into playing Alex Woodburn alongside Callum MacBurnie at centre, something which is bound to disrupt Coventry’s usual attacking, free-flowing rugby that we’ve grown so accustomed to this season…or not, as the case may be….although there seems to be some confusion as to just what the team actually is, which doesn’t make for the greatest PR, does it?
How the club must be ruing (or should that be rueing?) their decision not to recall Sam Smith from Broadstreet before the transfer window closed three weeks ago (ish).
However, with Woodburn one of the initial 6 confirmed players retained by the club, here is a great opportunity for the lad to display the sort of qualities that the Director of Rugby-elect, Rowland Winter, is looking for in his new squad.
It’s a big ask of the former Gloucester back rower and he’ll have to show all the hunger and ability Winter has previous referred to if the backs are to be a presence on the pitch. That said, Loti Molitika had to do something similar in the second half against Blaydon and he gave a pretty decent account of himself then, so there’s no reason why ‘Woody’ can’t do a job there.. Alex has got plenty of experience around him and, hopefully, he won’t be found wanting. He’s a very promising prospect and someone who has never had a poor game in a Coventry shirt and whatever the result later today, he mustn’t be judged on what happens out on the pitch in a few hours time. One thing is for sure, he’ll give it is all, as will all the players out there.
However, I do wonder when the explanation on the official team sheet as to Woodburn’s presence in the heart of the midfield is given as ‘tactical’. If ever an explanation of team selection is needed, then it is now.
Next season, perhaps Roland Winter will be able to shed light on team selection in the run up to match days – it isn’t something that’s happened too often this season, but with a full-time DoR in office from June, you’d hope there be a little more time to share such information with supporters. With Peter Weightman on the bench, there is someone who probably has a skill set better suited to that position, as well as the experience. Hard to fathom, that one…
What it might mean is that the encounter will become far more of a 10 man game than a 15 man one and the wings probably won’t see a huge amount of the ball…again (the more I think about RW’s preferred style of play, that of ‘energy, high-tempo, moving points of attack, all-round skill sets to attack at every opportunity’ the more I’m looking forward to next season. Supporters have been starved of watching Cov playing attacking rugby for too long now).
Matt Jones’ return is particularly pleasing and although there will be some questions asked regarding his fitness following his enforced lay off, the talk at Blaydon was that he had targeted his return for the Cinderford game, so I don’t think he’s been rushed back to cover for other injuries. In Matt, we do have someone with huge experience and he does have the kicking game to avoid having to rely too heavily on our backs. This is one occasion that I’ll be happy to see the ball kicked more often than might be the norm, provided Matt is able to make the opposition turn and defend, rather than allow then to run on to the ball and attack at will. The chasers must be up quickly and put pressure on the Cinderford receivers…at times we have defended well in the opposition half. If we show patience we can let them make the mistakes and capitalise accordingly.
I much prefer Caolan at 15 and he is certainly someone who can run the ball back with interest if Cinderford decide to kick for position. He is quick and elusive and I hope he’ s been given the freedom to test the opposition defences. However, in the games early on in the season, he tended to make good yards but then found himself isolated and too regularly we were unable to retain possession, something that we can’t afford to repeat again today.
Hough on the wing hasn’t had much opportunity to prove himself and in the few games he has played, Coventry have tended to defend more than attack with the result that he’s rarely had space to show what he can do, as is the case with Peter Weightman, whom I would have selected at 11.
In contrast, the forwards look to have a familiar feel about them, with Devlin Hope the only one who hasn’t really been a regular, with only 5 starts to his name (Wright has had 8 starts). At the end of the week the names of those retained is released, Dev gets a start…the guy must have a wry smile on his face. I remember back in August in a very early post saying that Dev had something about him, something that supporters would warm to. I know I’ve kind of championed his cause on here (without, I hope, also being supportive of Matt Price who has had a very impressive season and if he does make his 150th appearance today, then it will be one heck of an achievement and something that won’t happen again in the foreseeable future) but I am pleased that many other contributors on here and on the messageboard have warmed to him as well. I hope he ‘gives it horns’ on the pitch today (which I think is a SA phrase suggesting ‘get stuck in’, although when I tried to google it I got something completely different….??!). I also hope Pricey gets the chance to lead the team out onto the pitch…it would be a well deserved honour.
A strong bench too, surprisingly, with the usual suspects apart from Matt Price, obviously, and George Tresidder, who must have been close to getting the nod ahead of Wayne Evans, having put in some hugely impressive performances in the games he’s played.
Cinderford must surely intend to be in our faces from the word go…if we can remain on level terms for the first 20-30 minutes, then I reckon we will go on to win. If we leak a couple of early tries, we might well struggle. I’d fancy our forwards to dominate the game up front but the problem then might be what we then do with all the ball we win, given the reshuffle in the backs. I don’t think it will be a great spectacle of rugby to watch, but this really is one of those games where the result is far more important than the manner in which it is achieved.
Whatever the size of the crowd today, I hope they are in loud voice and let the team know from the off that they’re are behind them. If it does end up being a close game, then I do think the support could tip the game in Coventry’s favour.
It certainly going to be a nervous few hours until kick off and I must make sure I follow my match day routine – 12.33 train, lunch at Istanbul’s, a number of laps around the pitch (anticlockwise) and my lucky Cov socks – it could make all the difference.
It might well be what I’d like to call a routine victory…
For anyone not able to go to the game, I’ll tweet regular updates from the Butts on @Cowshedtim or if you don’t have Twitter, you can still see them in real time on the top right hand side of the homepage of this blog.
Hopefully, I’ll also post some pre-match photos early evening.
Come on, Cov…