One player to have gone under the radar this week, in stark contrast to the week before, is Leicester DR loanee Freddie Tuilagi.
The announcement of his arrival took everyone by surprise and it became something of a subplot in the narrative building up to the Plymouth game last weekend. This was to be an important test for Coventry against a strong Plymouth side…a measure of just how much progress Cov had made in the couple of weeks since the disappointment of the Esher game.
And, in the midst of the discussions as to how Cov might play the game, kick more and run less or vice versa, another topic of conversation arose. Would Freddie be in the squad to play Plymouth? Would he start or if on the bench, when would he get on? Would he make kind of impact we were all hoping for?
Freddie had arrived.
There was definitely a fair amount of interest pre-match, with the mention of his name audible amongst the crowd in the minutes leading up to kick off. When he appeared after the half time break, anticipation had turned to expectation…
But sadly, Freddie never really got into the game and whilst he did his best to make his presence felt, both with the ball and in the tackle, it just didn’t happen for him and after 25-30 minutes, he was replaced by another DR, Jack Willis – ironically the player he’d replaced at half time. Maybe the occasion got the better of him, playing as he was in front of home supporters, or maybe he just had a bad day at the office – whatever the reason, it was it must have been pretty disappointing for him on his Coventry debut.
Which is why I’m really pleased that Rowland Winter has kept faith with Freddie and he’s again on the bench for the trip up to Hull.
Sport is often as much about confidence as it is about ability and it’s clear that RW believes in Freddie’s ability. Hopefully being retained in the match day squad this weekend will be the catalyst for him to produce exactly the sort of performance that the coaches believe he is capable of delivering. Away from the BPA and free from all the expectation of a home crowd responding more at the moment to the name than to the player, well perhaps he’ll feel a little less pressured to perform. Maybe that’s a little disingenuous of me in that I know I was excited more by the name than I was by the ability of the player and I’m assuming others were, too.
I’m wrong to do that and I should know better…
In a really interesting article on the website today, Rowland Winter talks about the differences between being ‘challenged to rise to the occasion’ and ‘threatened to not blow it’. It’s about focusing on the positives and not allowing the negatives to dominate – under Rowland Winter’s philosophy, the team is set up to win and win big, not to just avoid losing. It seems to me that the latter is self-defeating and draining and tends to strangle natural skills and do away with creativity on the rugby pitch.
Freddie’s young and clearly has a talent that Leicester want to see nurtured in the lower leagues. And you can see why clubs like Wasps and Leicester are more than happy for their top youngsters to come to Cov and spend time under the watchful eye of RW and his coaches. The last thing they want is for their players to become inhibited and lose that artistry that relatively few players possess. something that’s innate rather than taught on the training ground:
Research suggests that when players are challenged to rise to the occasion, they perform better then (sic) when they are threatened to not blow it. Challenged players tend to focus on the prize for success, while threatened players focus on the consequences of failure.
The challenge is for Freddie to play to his strengths, to perform to his own high standards; the prize is securing a place in the starting XV.
He has another opportunity today to show us just how good a player he is and I’m really hoping he takes it…and that would benefit Cov too. Effective as Darrell Dyer has been in the middle of the back row, he’s not a specialist no 8, which shows just how good a player he is, covering as well as he has for the injured Ali Bone and Olly Povoas. If Freddie Tuilagi does have the skills and mental strength needed to perform at this level, it means that RW will have more options elsewhere in the back row, and the back row hasn’t yet performed as effectively as it will need to if we are to compete with the top two or three clubs after Christmas…something that was especially evident at Blackheath a few weeks ago now.
It will be interesting to see how it all unfolds on the pitch later today…
Good luck, Freddie.
Have a good ‘un.
Good to see three ex-Coventry players appearing for Moseley today, and all three in the forwards! The interesting selection is in the second row where Sam Pailor has been selected to play alongside George Oram. Only a week ago, Sam was playing for Ealing Traifinders – also in the 2nd row.
Presumably, either injuries to another Moseley lock or the excellent form of Sam against Newport Gwent Dragons last week have resulted in his recall. Sam rarely started anywhere else other than the back row whilst at Cov, but the thing is about Sam – you know you’re always going to get effort and endeavour and what he might lack in terms of experience playing in the 2nd row in recent years, he’s going to more than make up for commitment to the cause. He’ll definitely add mobility to the pack and provided the set pieces aren’t effected by having a non-specialist playing at 4, it could prove to be a very interesting switch for both Sam and Moseley.
With both Jacques Le Roux and Jake Farnworth also in the starting line-up, the pack has quite a familiar look to it. I’d really like to see them all in the starting XV back at the BPA on 17th December as they were in the first game at Billesley; that should add a little extra spice to what is already looking like it might be quite a tasty festive encounter.
Like Cov, Moseley are also benefiting from the proximity of Wasps, with two of their youngsters appearing in the Moseley match day squad to face Darlington today. Piers O’Conor was in the 2015 England U20 squad together with our own Tom Howe and Will Stuart played alongside Jack Willis in the 2016 U20 World Cup.
Good luck to everyone involved.
If you aren’t familiar with Twitter or don’t have an account, then on the homepage of this blog (www.coventryrfc.me), all the tweets will appear in real time on the far right of the page, towards the top end.
All this does depend on there being a signal from the ground of course…
Up the Cov!
Hopefully, there will be another in the series of ‘Burger Watch’ some time next week…can anyone topple Istanbul off the top spot?
A reminder of the table thus far:
Best Burgers 2016
1. Istanbul’s (17 Butts)* – *****
2. Esher RFC – ****1/2
3. Blackheath RFC – **** (no burger report)
4. Coventry – RFC – ***
*based on the cost of a single burger and chips