Club talk

Finest selection, a hooker and Up with The Saturdays

This is the crossing at the main intersection,
Up is were we go from here,
Finest selection,
This can take us anywhere,
I don’t want protection,
Life is better of the line, ine, ine…

The Saturdays – Up!

In the light of yesterday’s poll and today’s official announcement of the team  selected to play Hartpury College at home this Saturday (at least I’m assuming it will be today given I’m writing this in the wee small hours), the above lyrics seem rather appropriate…’

Up is where we go from here/Finest selection/This can take us any where’.

As supporters, we all have our own thoughts and feelings about team selection. Often we tend to pick our teams on the basis of our liking for, or loyalty to, a particular player rather than any deep understanding of the context of the game, the game plan, the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition and the conditions, together with a host of other factors that it wouldn’t even occur to most of us to consider.

Me,  I’d have Rob Knox in the team every single time, but I know that there have been concerns about some aspects of his play; his distribution, for instance. But we are talking about Rob Knox, local lad, powerful runner, great season two years ago, popular with the crowd – so he has to be in. Every week.

I’m nothing if not loyal.

And that’s often the problem when supporters try to play at being selector, because that’s all it is, playing. I rather imagine the coaches are a little bit more objective when it comes to  picking the team. I don’t expect that loyalty is a deal breaker when it comes to preferring one player over another, which is presumably why Rob has been used out on the wing whilst others have been looked at in midfield, prior to the last few games where he’s come back in at centre.

Yesterday’s poll, the results of which I’ll put into tomorrow’s post, will give an indication as to what those completing it feel to be Cov’s ‘strongest’ team, a team selected on an entirely different set of premises to those used by Rowland Winter when deciding his match day squad for Saturday. That’s why such polls, enjoyable as they are, have little real worth to them.

And I  certainly don’t envy the decisions the coaches will have had to make regarding selection for Saturday’s game, given the disappointing performance Cov gave last weekend. A performance that deserved no curtain call at the end.

In some respects, Hartpury is just about the worst team to follow on from Cov’s trip to Blackheath. They will be full of confidence, scoring as they are a hatful of tries and looking to be the best team in the league by a distance at the moment. If Coventry aren’t really up for it, then it could be a long afternoon in front of what will be a big and expectant home crowd. Should Coventry come out firing on all cylinders, however, as they have done against both Loughborough and Macclesfield, the crowd will give them a massive lift and Hartpury will know they’ve been in a game come the end of the 80 minutes.

The crowd will have a big part to play in motivating what is still a new squad – we know from what the players have said just how much of an impact they can have and whilst the ’16th man’ is overly used at times, this is one instance where Cov fans could have a significant impact on the game.

One of the reasons I like to get to the ground early, other than to catch up on the week’s news with Sam, is to watch Coventry warm up. For some games, the intensity in those minutes leading up to kick off is more palpable than for others and it’s always interesting to watch the players go through their pre-match rituals. As a general rule, the worse the language, the better the performance…

The team will be anxious to prove to the Coventry faithful that last weekend was a one-off and that the squad is capable of beating any team in the league on its day.

And its day is this Saturday…

Whilst a win and five points would be a fantastic result, one that is certainly possible, once again I’m more interested in the performance for the time being. With Coventry failing to show much in the way of attack, or in truth even of defence, in the second half last weekend,  what I’ll be looking for is a team performance that shows a lot more character and resolve. And if we are down at half time, then more fight and urgency.

I also be expecting to see the  players show they have the fight for a battle. They certainly have the ability to destroy defences at times, as they have done already against two of the less fancied teams in National 1, but they have yet to do so against teams that are expected to be challenging for the top 3 or 4 places comes April. A strong performance against Hartpury will certainly answer a few of the questions raised by last week’s less than memorable performance.

Early on in the post I mentioned that Hartpury could be thought of as being just about worst team Cov could face following last week’s mauling. That’s certainly not the way Scott Tolmie sees it though. In another really informative John Wilkinson interview on the official website,  Scott believes the Hartpury game to be an ideal opportunity to turn things around following what was a poor performance last week:

We were really disappointed, we didn’t put in a performance at all…But we’re lucky because it’s one week and you get to move forward to the next game. This is a massive week for us, but I think everyone is quietly looking forward to it, and there’s no better way to bounce back than by beating the leaders at home.

It’s exactly what you’d want to hear from a player who has made such an impressive start to his Coventry career. For the second year running we have two hookers who have the knack of scoring tries and whilst Devlin didn’t make too many starts in a Cov shirt, it seems increasingly likely that Scott will, at the very least, share the no 2 shirt with Matt and already he has proved to be a popular acquisition this season and at 23 he is still learning his trade. He looks to be a really good prospect and, under Matt and Boris’ tutelage, I’m sure he’ll blossom.

Scott appears to have settled in well and be enjoying his rugby here:

I’m content and happy playing rugby over here, and I’m really enjoying my time at Coventry. It’s a good bunch of lads, the supporters do a great job and really help us to get through games, and there is a good feel about the club.

And like Matt, he seems to respect the support the team gets from Cov fans, being quick to tweet his thanks after the game for those who made the trip down to Blackheath last weekend, as did Matt and several other Coventry players. Such gestures, small as they are, are important and always much appreciated by the many fans who follow both Coventry and the players on Twitter:

Ok, Cov lost and lost badly, but if players show they care deeply about such a loss and what it might mean to the supporters, well then they’re already part way to putting it right.

In JW’s interview, Scott comments about having to get used to the technical nature of the set pieces, particularly the scrum, having played much of his rugby in the southern hemisphere something which is a reoccurring comment these days from overseas players, with Courtney Roberts and Devlin Hope both saying something similar last season. (As an aside, Courtney has taken a year out of rugby back in New Zealand having lost some of his passion for the game, whilst Devlin made his first appearance in a London Scottish shirt at the weekend, coming on as a replacement for the final 25 minutes – good luck to the both of them).

Scott also mentioned how enjoyable it was to be the one who tends to benefit from being at the back of the driving maul,  often finishing the move by touching down over the line. Coventry’s pack has certainly been dominant so far this season, with the only exception being the final 30 minutes of the second half last week. Whilst the backs are surely going to enjoy a far greater percentage of the tries scored this season, I think we can expect Scott Tolmie, and probably Matt Price, to be in double figures come April.

(There was an really interesting article in The Rugby Paper last week about Wasps’ use of the rolling-maul which detailed how it is best used and best defended…well worth a read if you can get hold of a copy of the paper).

I’ve always been  more of a glass half full kind of person and despite last week’s defeat, and the manner of it, I remain optimistic that we will cause Hartpury enough problems on Saturday to give ourselves a real chance of beating them. We’ll have to play better than we did last week across every area of the game, but that won’t be too difficult. When you look at the squad we have and then drill down to individual players, we have some real quality there. Many of them are having to adapt to a new style of play under Rowland Winter, but good players, and good players they are, will be able to do that given a bit of time.

At the moment, I find myself sitting somewhat embarrassingly at the top of the Prediction League on the unofficial messageboard. For those who aren’t aware of it, basically you predict the score for each Cov game in the season and get awarded points depending on how close to the actual score you are with your prediction. I’ve never quite understood how points are awarded, but if you haven’t yet tried it, then it’s definitely worth a go:

Messageboard – Prediction League

And thanks to Russ for taking over the running of it this year…

Anyway, I usually find myself somewhere near the foot of the table as I won’t predict a Coventry defeat, which explains why I did so poorly last season. This weekend I’ve once again gone for a Cov win and a score than would mean that as likely as not Cov will have gained a bonus point in achieving it.

Needless to say, I expect to remain at the top come 5.00 pm on Saturday…

This is the final call for all destination,
This is were you’re in or out,
No hesitation,
This is not the time for doubts,
Make your decision ,
Are you on or off the line?, ine, ine…

The Saturdays – Up

And feast your eyes on the video…

I know I did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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