I can not live
Peacefully without you
For even a moment
I miss you terribly when you’re away
This ain’t right…
I’m taking an aeroplane
Across the world to
Bjork – Aeroplane
I may be leaving on a jet plane…
…but unlike John Denver, or Peter, Paul and Mary for that matter, I’m organised enough to have the details of the return flight already to hand.
Train to Cov, coach from the ground to Luton, ‘uppy downy’ flight to St Peter and a taxi from the airport to a room with a view.
All-in-all a pretty leisurely way to travel on the eve of Cov’s second pre-season friendly, this time against Championship side Jersey Reds who are should be the strongest of our pre-season opposition, despite the fact we’re facing more Championship opposition next week, against Ealing at home.Ealing Trailfinders have had a lot of turnover in players and probably won’t have such a settled squad. After 4 years in Tier 2, Jersey must now be regarded as an established Championship side and will want to press on this season and challenge the top teams in their division. Just how Ealing will fare this season in the Championship is a bit of an unknown, but with Richmond remaining a part-time team, you have to think their prospects of avoiding the drop are have greatly improved.
Jersey Reds, as they became officially known from May of this year, have undergone a rebrand and following on from their 6th place finish last year they want to now start to ‘modernise’ their image – sounds familiar? I’ve always thought Jersey a welcome addition to the top tiers of national rugby and I wish them all the best for the coming season – discounting tomorrow, perhaps? They are the perfect opposition for Cov, a test of exactly where we are in our preparations and still with time to address any problems should Jersey Reds expose any shortcomings, as you’d expect they would.
It was great to see the team list up early on the website…whether Thursday is going to be the norm is unclear, but I would imagine that with John Wilkinson presumably traveling with the team today, he’ll have wanted to get it out as quickly as possible. As a coach, I suppose you’d want to wait until after Thursday night’s training before finalising details to ensure there are no injuries or just to have a last look at your options. Last season was strange in that sense, sometimes the team was released fairly early on Thursday, sometimes on a Friday and even as late as mid-morning on a Saturday with no explanation or notice to say there was a delay.
Another one to put on the list of questions to ask!
And have we ever had as stronger bench in the last 15 years or so, I wonder:
Price, Brown, Boulton, Jubb, Dyer, Grasso, Maisey, Rundle and Burke.
…you could perm any 5 from the 9 named and, provided all the relevant positions are covered, you’d settle for any combination. The fact that they played on Tuesday clearly impacts on their availability to start, but surely any of these 8 would have walked into the match day 15 last season, with maybe the exception of Will Maisey for Matt Jones? However, on the form he showed in the first half against ‘Street, even that’s not a given – one of the stand-outs for me on Tuesday, was Will.
With the likes of Tom Poole, Callum MacBurnie, Cliffie Hodgson and Pete White still unavailable through injury, there’s plenty in reserve as well.
Although ‘strength in depth’ was very much the anthem of last year’s close season and an epithet that came to haunt the Coventry coaches later in the season, it’s hard to argue that it’s not the case 12 months on. The prospect of Trimble, Knox, Stokes and Rundle all competing for starting places on the wing is mouth-watering…and by all accounts James Stokes is even quicker than Dan! Much will depend on how long James Pritchard is on the pitch for- if he’s not going to play the full 80, perhaps Stokes moves to full back and that gives who ever is on the bench an opportunity out wide?
Rob Knox at 11 is an interesting one…he hasn’t got the out and out pace of the others, but Rob is one of those players who has the ability to score from a long way out and beat players in the process. Under the quick, free-running and expansive style that we know Coventry are adopting this season, the traditional role of a winger out wide might not fit and if the 11 and 14 are given free reign to follow the ball a little more and run onto the shoulder of the player making the break, well it could be carnage in our league.
Will Maisey’s distribution was excellent on Tuesday, giving time and room for the receivers to run at all sorts of angles and I’d expect to see Tony Fenner doing something similar on Saturday. Jersey’s defence will be resolute and just how many gaps we’ll find is going to be interesting to say the least…
…the immoveable object vs the unstoppable force, perhaps?
There’s some real class in the backs and whilst we might not get a true impression of the impact Cov could have in National 1, over the next couple of games against Championship opposition, there’s no better preparation. Last year, the ‘friendlies’ against Ealing, and in particular London Welsh, were fiercely contested affairs and I always wondered just how much it took out of some of the players. This year however, the squad should be a long way in advance of where they were then in terms of their fitness, so that shouldn’t be such a concern. That said, I’m glad Hannah is part of the set up!
Three of the four coaches are starting which is pleasing as it will be interesting to get a look at them early on, with only Brendan Burke being kept on the bench. Interesting, too, to see how having a captain and at least three of the coaches all on the pitch at the same time will be pan out – the coaches will have been used to having word or two in the practice sessions but presumably they’ll have to keep their own counsel, at least until they get a convenient break in play. It’s now clear how the ‘two captains’ scenario works – with Tom Wheatcroft given the nod tomorrow, it looks as if there’s a nominated captain for each game, with presumably Eoghan Grace acting as pack leader to enable him to marshal the forwards (do you still have pack leaders?). Will Eoghan take the reins for the Ealing game, I wonder?
I was convinced Sam Grasso, the new scrum half, had picked up an injury on Tuesday and wouldn’t be in the squad today…clearly he’s a quick healer! I’m sure having him here will benefit the other scrum halves and tomorrow Rhodri Adamson, starting at 9, has the chance to stake his own claim…a fantastic opportunity for him.
So tomorrow we get a glimpse of something like our best team playing a ‘competitive’ game for the very first time. Arguably there won’t be a harder game this season, certainly physically, although when there’s a potential 5 points at stake at key moments in the coming season, psychologically and emotionally that might not be the case.
It should be a great afternoon and I’m looking forward to returning to Jersey, and under happier circumstances, too.
And I couldn’t finish up without a music worm for the day…it’s an oldie, but not very goodie so apologies in advance…but this version does at least include the late great Cas Elliot (skip the small talk at the start though!)