Coventry team selection – choose the ones who look better in blue…
It’s only in recent years that I’ve come across the phrase ‘Hump Wednesday’, an Americanism to convey the idea that a week is rather like a mound or a hill. Monday and Tuesday are days when we are very much on the ascent so by midway through Wednesday, we’ve reached the top and from thereon in, and on Thursday and Friday, descending towards the weekend.
It’s not an expression I favour, or should that be ‘favor’, conjuring up, as it does, images of something completely different once anglicised.
That said, there’s something rather reassuring about the view that once Wednesday is over, then you can begin to concentrate on the weekend ahead. I guess it probably resonates better amongst those who are still in work, rather than for the old and somewhat infirm like myself, for whom weekdays and weekends are often indistinguishable, other than by visits from the grandchildren and an afternoon spent watching Cov.
It’s very late Wednesday evening now, so as I write this post the team for Saturday has yet to be announced. But with only a couple of days now until Saturday, and the week well and truly ‘humped’, thoughts begin to turn to Saturday and, in particular, team selection.
If it hasn’t already been announced by the time you read this, then it will be very shortly. And what I quite enjoy about Thursdays, and the confirmation of the team to play that weekend, is that in most weeks there are often one or two decisions made ‘out of left field’, to continue with the American theme.
Take last week for instance. 8 changes and one positional. Who’d have thought just the week before that there would be three Wasps Academy players making their debuts, Tom Poole would come into the side despite Tom Jubb’s availability, Will Maisey would start in the centre in preference to Tom Wheatcroft and Rob Knox, and Pete White would excite so many with such an impressive cameo after coming on in the second half.
All that and Cov score 54 points and ran out very comfortable winners.
So second guessing Rowland Winter’s thinking is nigh on impossible, but that said, let’s give it a go!
This is going to be so, so embarrassing…but as a supporter it’s the kind of thing you do, especially when you’ve got players new, or relatively new to the squad, as well as those returning from injury.
Sue, my wife, will often ask what the theme of the post is that day, usually only to guffaw and head off to continue her daily study of British soaps from 1830 – 2000…sorry that should read ‘from 18:30 to 20:00 pm’.
When earlier today I mentioned I was going to have a go at selecting my own team for Saturday ahead of the announcement tomorrow, she called out from the kitchen, ‘Are they home or away?’
On hearing that it was, indeed, a home game this weekend, she simply offered the suggestion that I should, ‘Choose the ones who look better in blue…’.
I suppose that’s one way of doing it…but can you imagine all the coaches huddled around a table discussing whether they should delay Freddie Tuilagi’s debut until next week because the particular shade of red in the Cov away strip complements his eye colour so well.
Anyway, that said, I did take Sue’s advice, sort of, in that I’ve used blue to indicate those players who would be a sure fire ‘shoe in’ for me; the players I would pencil in first and look to build the team around given their current form. Red indicates those whom I deliberated over somewhat longer, but who in the end I was fairly confident about and those in green are players whom were unlucky to miss out on selection.
15. James Stokes
14. Tom Howe/Max Trimble
13. Rob Knox
12. Tom Wheatcroft/Corey Hircock/Callum MacBurnie/Will Maisey
11. Owain James
10. Tony Fenner
9. Pete White
8. Ali Bone/Freddie Tuilagi
7. Eoghan Grace (Capt)
6. Jack Willis
5. Brendon Snyman
4. Tom Poole/Tom Jubb
3. Phil Boulton/ James Litchfield
2. Scott Tolmie
1. Boris Stankovich
16. Matt Price
17. Andy Brown/Phil Boulton/James Litchfield
18. Freddie Tuilagi/Darrell Dyer
19. Rhodri Adamson/James Pritchard
20. Corey Hircock/Will Maisey
So, where were the problems areas, then?
On the wings, Max Trimble is now fit so is certainly close to a recall, but the form shown by Tom Howe and Owain James make them very difficult to keep out, especially given the defensive shift they both put in against Fylde, with James being outstanding. I didn’t see Dan on Saturday and given the rest of the squad seemed to be in the stands watching, I can only assume he’s injured. Max is particularly unlucky given the form he was in prior to his injury. However, he’ll be back very soon and it would be a difficult call to leave Tom Howe out.
For me, the only other position up for grabs in the backs is that of 12, where Tom Wheatcroft is back to full fitness and Corey Hircock, Will Maisey and Callum MacBurnie must all be in contention. I don’t think I know the best 12 to play alongside Rob Knox who is taking his chances every time he starts from the bench and probably needs a bit of a run now at 13, with my choice of 12 being Tom Wheatcroft. Will Maisey played well last Saturday, but some loose kicking and a couple of missed tackles were enough to give Tom the nod.
I am also mindful of Rowland Winter’s comment last week that:
We are keeping Tom and Cliffie out of the squad this week as a precaution. They are frustrated, but they must remain patient and remember that it’s a long season and they will both play a big part in the team
and maybe this is what tips it in Tom’s favour. As for Cliffie, if and when he returns I imagine it will be at 10, or maybe in midfield, as it’s hard to see James Stokes anything other than an automatic choice at 15 unless either injured or it’s felt he’s in danger of being overplayed and needs a weekend’s recuperation.
I’m a big Rhodri Adamson fan, but he did himself no favours last week with some poor distribution on occasions, putting the receivers under pressure from defenders who as a consequence of some wayward passes had more time to make their tackles. So Pete White has to start and, if he plays the game using the same pace and tempo he displayed last week, he could provide just the sort of momentum needed to get the big Coventry juggernauts rolling off his shoulders and the speedsters queuing up for the off loads once the spaces open up. He certainly added a different dimension to the play during the final quarter of the Fylde game.
I’ve put Rhodri on the bench because he can play at 9, 10 and 15 so as a utility player he has a lot to offer the match day squad, although there’s a strong argument to have James Pritchard there to come on and steady the ship a little if needed in the final 20-25 minutes. Like Rhodri, JP is very versatile so I wouldn’t be averse to using his vast experience as and when it might be needed. In fairness, Will could offer something similar positionally, but he doesn’t have that vast experience to fall back on
The pack isn’t quite so straightforward, with the back row being the hardest of all to select. Jack Willis has to start for me following such a mature debut last weekend. He offered plenty of options in attack and was all over the pitch in defence. Grace is also an automatic start, and Ali Bone deserves another opportunity after what I thought was his best game in a Cov shirt against Fylde. Freddie Tuilagi must also be in RW’s thinking and he was packing down at 8 in the Rugby Nats video released on Monday filmed whilst raining last week, so that might be a clue. However, initially I’d like to see him come off the bench and see what sort of impact on the game he has. I’m sure they’ll be quite a bit of anticipation in the main stand were he to do so, especially as he waits on the touchline ready for the referee’s signal to come onto the pitch.
Brendon Snyman starts for me every time at 5, provided he’s fit and doesn’t need resting for the odd game. Just who plays alongside him is a tough one though. Tom Jubb probably offers more in attack that Tom Poole, but TP had a very encouraging game last week, did little wrong and his overall discipline is probably that much better than TJ’s. If you don’t play Tom Jubb, it’s hard to get him into the match day squad though as Darrell Dyer has always done well coming on early in the second half and is able to play anywhere in the back row, or even second row, at a push.
In the front row, at the moment Scott Tolmie seems to be the hooker of choice, with Matt Price being given a decent shift in the second half – it seems to work well so I can’t see that being changed against what will be a pretty strong Plymouth pack.
I do prefer Boris starting, if only because there’s always so much to look out for when he’s scrummaging. If the front 5 can gain the sort of advantage that we’ve been enjoying in most games this season, then Andy Brown can replace Boris as and when, offering a bit more mobility around the pitch as he showed in scoring his try last weekend. At tight head, well I really don’t know enough about the relative technical merits or otherwise of Phil Boulton and Jimmy Litchfield but Phil is the senior player and as such gets the nod from me. Interestingly, in the huddle at the end of the Fylde game it seemed to be Phil B who was doing most of the talking and he certainly seemed to be putting a strong message across, too.
I think in covering the starting line-up, I’ve also included most of the replacements, the only one not mentioned being Corey Hircock who would be a good shout to start and certainly seems to be someone Rowland has great faith in. He can cover centres and wings and probably offers a few more options on the bench alongside Rhodri.
I’m certainly confident that we’ll win and take the 5 points, although the 5 points isn’t such a big prediction as it might seem, despite Plymouth’s position in the league and their convincing win last Saturday. The thing with Cov is that if they win, they’re going to win most likely by scoring tries rather than kicking penalties, so by predicting a win I’m also suggesting that at least 4 tries will come with it. I can’t see Cov winning a game with a score line of something like 18-14, for instance, it’s just not in their nature, especially if the weather isn’t something to factor into the equation.
Which is exactly why I never do well in the Predictor League on the Messageboard.
I did say I would include last weekend’s Burger Watch in today’s post, but it’s late, I’m struggling to focus on the screen and it can wait…!
I’m hoping to get down to the ground tomorrow to watch the squad train…
…by then ‘Hump Wednesday’ will be long gone and ‘Free-Fall Friday’ fast approaching.
I’m not sure what moniker could be given to Thursday, though…
…Tumble-down Thursday, perhaps?
Tumble-down Thursday and Free-Fall Friday.