The Coventry match day squad named to face Ealing on Saturday appears to be just about the strongest we could put out at the moment and, with a couple of exceptions, it seems as if these 25 players are the ones Rowland Winter will whittle down to just 20 for the first National 1 league game of the season which is now just 4 weekends away.
In addition to those selected to play on Saturday, it appears both Rob Knox and Sam Harry are also both be in consideration for the Newport game and still very much in the mix.
According to Rowland Winter:
Both Sam and Rob are young players and we want to make sure that they head into the season injury-free, so both will rest up ahead of the Newport fixture
With Brendan Burke yet to make an appearance in a Coventry jersey, Tom Wheatcroft a pretty safe bet for a place in the starting XV and Corey Hircock on the bench, competition in the centres is fierce. It looks very much like the coaches see Rob on the wing for the time being, but it would be hard to argue against Max Trimble getting the nod tomorrow given his performance against Broadstreet and Dan needs as much game time as he can get following his absence for most of last season. Rob, a favourite with the Cov crowd for the last couple of seasons, will have to bide his time and make a statement next week against Newport. I’m sure he’ll be frustrated at not playing but cream always has a way of rising to the top.
As a spectator, when we play teams of the calibre of Ealing, I want to see us play our strongest side and although I’m acutely aware that there will be a few members of the squad who have missed out for the second week running, and in all likelihood will do so again next week, I think it is absolutely the right thing to do.
The likes of Heath, Smith, Smit and Canning must be chomping at the bit but at the moment with the countdown to the Loughborough game well and truly underway, I’m not sure what else Cov can do. It must be particularly galling for Adam Canning as he picked up a knock in the ‘Street game so his absence is more a question of unavailability – the injury certainly came at an unfortunate time as he looked like he had picked up from where he’d left off 12 months ago, when he appeared to be in such good form.
Those players missing out tomorrow will certainly get a run out in the double header, but I guess at this stage of the season players want as much time on the pitch as they can get. Cov haven’t got the biggest of squads, so there aren’t too many players in this position thankfully…
It would be good to know how far off training/consideration for selection the likes of Tom Poole, Callum MacBurnie, Pete White and Cliffie Hodgson are as, if fit, they will also be in contention for a place in the match day squads come September.
The situation isn’t too dissimilar to last season when there also appeared to be strength in depth in the squad – except for two big differences.
In the pre-season last year we had already started to pick up several fairly long-term injuries, particularly in key positions, which meant very quickly selection options were limited. Also, whilst a lot of the players brought in this season are known names – the likes of Wheatcroft, Grace, Boulton, Jubb, Conquest, Dyer and the 4 coaches, that wasn’t quite the case last year and perhaps the squad didn’t have the strength in depth as it has now.
Indeed, some of the players new to the squad this season excelled against us last year and are already familiar to us (especially Jubb for Mowden in the away game and Dyer at home against Ampthill).
Time will prove me right or wrong on that one, but certainly there’s a point to be made there.
And, even though it’s not the most politically correct thing to say…but I’ll say it anyway…because the four 4 coaches and Rowland Winter were involved in the recruitment of this year’s squad, coaches attached to teams and who know these players well, I think I have more confidence in them getting it right this year.
But that’s just an opinion.
Interestingly, in the notes accompanying the release of the squad to face Ealing, Rowland Winter also says:
We expect to fine tune the squad and select close to league squad size of 20 as the weeks progress towards the double header on August 27
Perhaps that’s an indication that with only one game remaining before the double header, next week he’ll reduce the squad from the 25 it is for Saturday to a number closer to that figure of 20 allowed for National 1 games.
With Cov being 3 weeks ahead of Ealing in terms of their pre-season (I think the Championship begins a week or two after the National Leagues begin…?), this is the their first friendly and as such they are playing what amounts to two entirely different teams each half. Perfectly reasonable on their part, really, but probably something that is more difficult to prepare for if you’re RW, although maybe you just play it as you would any game and not worry about what the opposition are doing…?
Certainly you’d expect Ealing to finish the stronger, given that most of their players are only going to be playing 40 minutes. Comparing how Coventry play in the two halves isn’t really going to be possible given, in effect, they’re playing two different sides. That said, Coventry’s fitness has been a real plus for me and with Coventry naming 9 replacements themselves, perhaps that isn’t such a factor.
And once again, what a bench it is.
We saw the benefits of this last week when there was no noticeable drop in play from Cov’s point of view as the replacements were made. We can expect to the front row exchanging places again and if Brown, Price and Boulton have the same impact as they had against Jersey Reds, then we will be in a very healthy position.
With only two hookers in the squad (and young Will Priestley in the Development Squad), an injury to either Scott Tolmie or Matt Price would be a concern – whether Will is yet ready to make the step up I’m not sure. Matt Price has been very noticeable in open play over the two games we’ve so far played and though he is one of the elder statesmen of the team now, he clearly hasn’t lost any of his enthusiasm. He understands what it means to play for Cov in front of a passionate Cov crowd better than most and the CovDog that we supporters talk about with such pride is alive and well in him. His presence in the squad is important and he and Scott Tolmie seem a good pairing at 2. He’s also a strong character and I’m sure he’ll have a really positive influence in the changing room.
I really pleased that Brendan Burke is starting, if only because I’ve heard such good things about him. He’s clearly not going to play much more than 40 minutes, if that, but he is a player who by all accounts can turn a game and his presence alongside Tom Wheatcroft in the centre should provide stability for the likes of Stokes, Trimble and Rundle to feed off. James Pritchard will probably come on at half time, and if things go to form, Stokes will go to the wing replacing either Trimble or Rundle and Hircock will come on for Burke.
Sam Grasso steadied things a little when he came on last week, but I hope Rhodri Adamson gets the opportunity to have a run out just to settle his nerves a little. He’s a fine prospect.
Ealing are down to play Luke Daniels and Phil Chesters in both halves (I think there are only 4 from the first half who are down to start the second)…both players are hugely entertaining to watch and they have caused Coventry more than the odd problem over the years. Daniels is a class act and I’d rate him as one of the best 15s I’ve seen in our league and Phil Chesters is just a scoring machine. I think he missed a fair bit of last season and hopefully he’s working his way back to full fitness – I just hope he’s just a little off his best tomorrow…
If Coventry can reproduce the form that they showed in the second half last weekend, the Coventry crowd will warm to them very quickly. Ealing represent another really tough challenge but this is a Cov team made of many players who have themselves played in the Championship and will know exactly what to expect from the opposition. It is still very early days and I’m not sure the crowd should be expecting Coventry to produce a similar result to last year’s when we beat Ealing…the squad is still very new and this is only the second game that most of them have played together.
However, it is fair to expect Coventry to show the pride and passion that was on display last Saturday…and that will be enough to carry the supporters along with them. There is some pressure on this first string Cov team, playing in front of their home crowd for the first time and on the back of what appears on paper to be a heavy defeat last week.
What I want to see most is that the team has character and that they take the game to Ealing, both in attack and defence. If we get in their faces and defensively show a bit more nous, I’m confident the Cov crowd will be impressed with what they see.
Remember the limerick that started something along the lines of…
‘There was young team from Ealing…’
… and involved them stepping on a banana peel(ing)…?
Well, Cov certainly have the game required to cause Ealing to slip up tomorrow…
The announcement of the Members’ Forum on Tuesday 23rd is another very positive move from the club. Rowland Winter said that he would improve communications between the club and its supporters and he has, indeed, been true to his word. With captains and coaches also in attendance, I guess the emphasis will very much be on the playing side of the club, but I do hope time is given over to mentioning, however briefly, all the positives that have been happening off the pitch as well. It is worth reflecting on just how much has happened in such a short space of time.
The timing of the Forum, coming as it does immediately after the Jersey, Ealing and Newport games, might make it a little more interesting if we don’t get something from at least one of them. However, members will be all too aware of the strength of the opposition and whilst the odd concern might be expressed, I think the general mood will still be very positive, provided performances remain as encouraging. We are at the very beginning of a long-term plan to achieve Championship rugby and the friendlies are all about preparing for that first game against Loughborough and beyond. With the captains and coaches present, there will be plenty of opportunity for them to explain just what the squad has got from the pre-season.
I do understand, I think, why these meetings are only open to members, but I also believe that all supporters should be included, although I appreciate that could cause problems. The fact that, as a member, you can bring along a friend seems an acceptance that it shouldn’t be exclusive to members only, so why not just go the whole hog and open it up to everyone?
As a member with a season ticket I might attend 12 home games and not travel to any away games. Yet a non-member might only go to 8 home games (pay at the turn-stiles) whilst also traveling to 4 or 5 away games – yet not have a voice, even though that person has watched more Cov games than me.
..and that seems wrong.
It’s not a big thing…
…but it wouldn’t be to me…
…because I get to go.