Solving the puzzle…
By the end of today players will have had their last opportunity to put forward their cases for selection against Loughborough in a week’s time.
And whilst the die has not yet been cast, Rowland Winter has said that the team picked to face Bury St Edmunds later today is certainly in the driving seat for selection against Loughborough Students next week. Is up to the players now…places are theirs to lose.
From a Coventry spectator’s point of view, that makes for a very interesting afternoon’s rugby.
After the opener between the two visiting sides, we come to the main events. For those two teams it will mean a great deal…playing on a neutral ground, two teams apart and a point or two to prove.
But for me, it really all starts at 1.45 pm.
First up, the Colchester game.
An it should be a good’un as there must be one or two players who are still very much in contention for a place in that opening National 1 game, despite RW’s comments.
Foot in the door but not enough room to squeeze through. One big push might just do it…
So who is who might just force there way in?
Well, we know from the Forum on Tuesday that Boris Stankovich and Jimmy Lichfield are swapping their usual positions just to see how they fare on opposite sides of the scrum – just in case they are required to cover for Phil Boulton and Andy Brown who don’t have that flexibility. One of the more interesting selections will be whether RW goes for Jimmy or Phil at tight head for the Loughborough game, or whether he decides to move Jimmy to loose head following today’s experiment. My guess would by Jimmy at 3.
A surprise for me is Dan Rundle’s ‘demotion’. He now appears to be behind Corey Hircock as first choice right wing, if only for today. Corey looked sharp when he came on against Newport and was at hand to take the scoring pass following Tom Jubb’s impressive cameo on the left wing.
We know Dan has out-and-out pace and is capable of creating something from nothing, so maybe the coaches feel in other areas he’s not the finished article and they just want to try out Corey in a game that doesn’t carry that much significance. It’s an odd one so late in the pre-season, but the competition for places on the wing can only be good for the team. What it probably does mean is that Max Trimble has already staked his claim and, to be fair to him, from the moment he’s scored that his first try against ‘Street, he’s looked the part.
It’s too early for Callum to be doing anything other than concentrating on getting his own game back up to speed, but it is good to see him back. He’s always been Mr Consistent for me, but with the quality of Rob Knox, Corey Hircock and Tom Wheatcroft (and Brendan Burke as a utility player), that I do fear might not be enough.
With Tom Wheatcroft selected as one of the two captains, it’s fair to assume that he’s going to start the first few games at least which leaves just one available place at centre. Knoxy’s in the driving seat following his much improved performance against Newport, but with Hircock and Burke already ahead of Callum, he’s got a lot of catching up to do. I’d love to see him have a really strong game today – that would make for some interesting conversations between Burke, James Pritchard and RW. He’s got to get some games under his belt before thoughts of a return to the 1st Xv are realistic, but I’m glad he’s fit again as at this best he’s a quality player. Whether he can adapt his game to suit the expansive approach that RW is espousing remains to be seen. Best of luck Callum.
Will (corrected – thanks, Mick) Maisey in the centre and Rhodri Adamson at Fly half is another interesting experiment. It looks like Rhodri can play at 10 or 15 as well as at 9, so he should be fine. It also allows Alex Smit to start at scrum half, so we get a chance to see all three on the pitch early on. I happened to come across the following link when just getting some background info about Rodri – it provides a lot of interesting detail, as well as one of those slick promo videos. Well worth a look though! Looks like a player with real potential.
Another player I’ll be looking out for is Tom Poole, who also makes a very welcome return. He’s also got a lot of catching up to do after picking up an injury early in pre-season. With RW hinting that there is another second row yet to arrive at the BPA, and with Rob Conquest, Tom Jubb and Brendon Snyman all above him in the pecking order, he’s in much the same position as Callum. But he’s back and they’ll be plenty of support for him from the stands.
With so many players in the team out to make an impression, either because they’re close to making next Saturday’s squad or because they’ve not had too many opportunities up to now, this could be a tough 60 minutes for Colchester, a team 2 leagues below Coventry. Cov will surely be attack-minded and look to expose any weakness in Colchester’s defences from the kick off.
Despite it’s B-list billing, there are so many plots and sub-plots all intertwined, it should make for a thoroughly absorbing game.
That said, the headline attraction, is the final game against Bury St Edmunds, which should provide us with the denouement – the fitting together of those final few pieces of the puzzle that began some 5 weekends ago. There will be one or two players whose places in the team next Saturday will depend on how they play today…the likes of Corey Hircock and maybe Olly Povoas, perhaps…?
I might well have got this wrong, but I was convinced that RW was going to have a look at Eoghan Grace at no 8 today, but from the team sheet it looks as if he remains at 6, with Darrell Dyer getting another chance to prove himself in the middle of the back row. It seems to be the one area where there’s still some room for manoeuvre – if Dyer doesn’t get the nod, then it’s between Povoas and Ali Bone. But, if the coaches decide to stick with him next week, then presumably Povoas is the favourite for open-side?
It’s the one area of the team where I’m not totally convinced we have enough depth, although we haven’t seen much of Sam Harry as yet. Brett Daynes has looked, well like Brett, and is so strong going forward. A couple of injuries though and we might yet struggle…? (Brett is playing in the second row against Colchester today…with Rob Conquest unavailable there really anyone else who can fill he position…?)
Rob Knox retains his place as centre alongside Tom Wheatcroft and must be hoping that another good performance today will be enough to convince the coaches to give him a run at 13, rather than out on the wing…although I imagine that as a player you’d be prepared to play anywhere if it meant you get to wear the shirt (well, almost anywhere…).
So, despite the fact that neither of the visiting teams are box office draws, I’m really looking forward to 3 hours of rugby and a final chance to see the whole squad together before the league competition takes over.
The puzzle is almost solved…
Only a few final pieces to slot together and the picture’s complete.
And if it’s the exact copy of the one that RW and the coaches have in their heads, then we could be in business.
Alea iacta est.
6 hours to kick off…but plenty to do before then.
An early arrival at the ground to help set up the Supporters’ Club stall, for one.
With three of the Smith’s joining and another 9 guaranteed (you’d hope!) from the SC Committee, we’re already into double figures. It would be good if we can attract 40-50 members by the Moseley game, enough to ensure the coach pays for itself…from there I’m sure some of the additional opportunities that will be offered to members will encourage others to join.
I’ll send out the scores via Twitter if there’s anyone interest (@CowshedTim) – just let me know via a comment on here or a message via Twitter. I’ll also post some pre-match photos – it will be great to get all the squad together, albeit spread across two games.
Have a great weekend…
From last night:
Final whistle and it's @rosslynpark 31-29 CRUFC
— Cambridge RUFC (@camrufc) August 26, 2016
No details…but interesting result…