Cov v Moseley – ‘Twas the night before Christmas
And we can build this dream together
Standing strong forever
Nothing’s gonna stop us now
And if this world runs out of lovers
We’ll still have each other
Nothing’s gonna stop us, nothing’s gonna stop us
Starship – Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now
16th December…hardly the night before Christmas…
Except it might well be if, or rather when, Coventry beat Moseley tomorrow.
And when they do, then I reckon Christmas will indeed have come early for many a Cov supporter.
Christmas and birthday both rolled into one in fact.
If yesterday’s training session was anything to go by, Coventry are not only in good heart for tomorrow’s encounter with Moseley, they are also in what looks like pretty decent form as well.
As they went through their routines, they looked sharp.
Passing was as incisive and as fluid as I’ve seen all season and handling precise and slick. It all looked very focused.
Of all the mid-week sessions I’ve been to, this was by some distance the most productive.
Yes, there was a warm-up session involving a game of football (and some pretty decent skills were on display) and yes there was plenty of banter going on, but once the serious stuff got under way, there was also plenty of concentration and purpose out there too.
This was a squad united in a single goal.
Settling a score…
…a score of 14-19 back in September, to be precise.
There’s always a danger of reading too much into a session like the one I witnessed yesterday, and certainly those of us watching from the main stand were concentrating far less on the ball than the players were, but I was very impressed with the manner in which the session was conducted.
Very impressed indeed.
As the players emerged from the changing rooms, it was clear there were going to be some changes from the team that drew with Darlington last week. Both James and Tuilagi were notable by their absence and Tom Howe was clearly going to be involved – when I arrived he was already in deep conversation with one of the coaches.
As ever, Rowland Winter came over and chatted with us and was happy to answer any questions thrown at him. He was certainly in an upbeat mood, not only about the Saturday’s game but the long term prospects for both the team and the club as a whole.
As far as selection was concerned, RW explained Wasps have recalled James and Willis for a weekend away with the first team at Connacht. Tom Howe would have gone too, but with family commitments he was unable to make the weekend long trip so he was made available to play for Cov.
Whilst Owain James has been making the headlines at Cov as far as his try scoring exploits are concerned and Jack Willis has produced a couple of barnstorming performances , Tom Howe has just had the three starts. But in each game he has looked a real handful and is a very strong and aggressive runner. He’s a real threat with the ball, scoring three tries himself, and he works really hard defensively. Interestingly, of the two, it was Howe and not James who made his debut against Sale in the Premiership a couple of weeks ago. I understand Wasps really rate him.
Freddie Tuilagi has been recalled by Leicester in readiness for an A game on Monday, so Darrel Dyer comes in at 8 and Brett Daynes at 6, with young Sam Harry retaining the 7 spot. It’s going to be a big test for the back row and with that in mind, I’m pleased that Brett has been given the nod, even if it does mean that Eoghan Grace has to sit this one out.
When Brett is firing on all cylinders, he is a really influential player and his basic speed and agility means he’ll be able to put pressure on Moseley’s first and second phase ball, as well as provide an extra threat in attack.
By all accounts, last weekend we defended far more effectively than we have done away from home, other than perhaps the first Moseley encounter, and it is imperative we make Moseley work for their ball all the time – whilst the Cov back row isn’t the biggest we seen over the years, it is quick and hopefully we can use this to good effect. A strong performance from Brett Daynes is going to be key…
The decision to leave Tom Jubb out of the starting line-up is down to the fact that Tom Poole adds more strength and power to the front five, even though Tom J is arguably the better player technically. Having Jubb on the bench means that when bodies start to tire in the second half, there is always the option to bring him on when hopefully there is more space for him to use his pace around the pitch to such good effect.
With Boris injured (apparently it is hoped he’ll be fit enough to return in January, although he might still require treatment over the summer break), the front row of Brown, Tolmie and Litchfield picks itself, with Phil Boulton to come on at tight-head as required.
In the backs, other than the inclusion of Tom Howe, there are no real surprises. The half-backs look pretty settled now – Tony Fenner has played himself into the starting 10 shirt with a series of good performances, with RW suggesting he was Cov’s man of the match last weekend with a huge defensive shift against Darlington that saw him put in more tackles than the combined front five…
The competition for a starting place between Fenner and Will Maisey is an extremely healthy one and is probably as competitive as for any position in the team, including that of hooker between Scott Tolmie and Matt Price. Players of that quality vying for the same spot in the team can only be a good thing provided they all get enough game time to keep them both happy. Will Maisey has been able to have that and as a consequence has shown just how much he has improved as a player since his previous time at the club.
With James Stokes moving back to his favoured position of full-back, Cliffie Hodgson finds himself back on the bench. However, I can’t help but feel that he’ll have a part to play at some point in the game – had someone told me back in April that Cliffie would be no more than third in line for kicking duties in most games he would be involved in, then I think I would been somewhat incredulous. However, such is the kicking prowess of both Fenner and Maisey, this is where he now finds himself…
Wheatcroft and Hircock partner each other in midfield again following Corey’s recovery from an ankle injury. As yet we haven’t seen the best from them as an attacking force consistently enough to make them the first choice pairing, but they have yet to have a decent run together. If they get enough ball, then together with Stokes, Howe and Trimble, they could cause Moseley a few problems out there tomorrow; there’s certainly no shortage of pace there.
On paper, this is certainly a strong Coventry side.
But is it strong enough to beat Moseley, a team riding high in the league and determined to achieve the unthinkable, the double over a Coventry side still smarting from their previous encounter back in September?
Absolutely it is.
And Moseley aren’t without their own concerns.
Two weeks ago they were humiliated against a Hartpury College side that is, by a distance, the best team in the league, but not better by a margin of 49 points. There will be a few nerves out there prior to the kick off, with the uncertainty that something similar might be repeated in front of what will probably be one of the largest crowds of the season anywhere in National 1. And by all accounts their home win against Esher last weekend wasn’t overly impressive either, with them failing to achieve the bonus point against a team 9 places below them in the league.
Yes, this is a good time to be playing Moseley.
And whilst Moseley look to be bringing a couple of hundred supporters with them, Coventry fans will outnumber them in the region of eight or nine to one and it is incumbent on us to make our presence felt. We make noise whilst the players are warming up, increasing it as that first whilst goes and rising to a crescendo when Coventry go down for that first scrum…
And the scrums will be such an important factor in deciding the direction of the game – as will the way the referee manages them. By all accounts Kevin Maggs, the Moseley supremo, has been a little concerned about Coventry’s dominance in this area this past week and if we can get the upper hand early on, I think Moseley will have a tough afternoon.
I’m sure Cov will go back to basics for the first 60 minutes or so and play as they did against Hartpury…but if Moseley show any sort of weakness, judging by how sharp Cov were in training, they’ll take every opportunity to open them up with quick ball.
Of course, it could all go horribly wrong, but I do think that at home and in front of as passionate a crowd as you’ll find anywhere in this league, or indeed the Championship, Coventry will come out on top.
It’s our turn and our time…
Don’t ever look back
Let the world around us just fall apart
Baby we can make it if we’re heart to heart
…Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now
Remember the video?
(I’ll post the results of this week’s ‘Half Term Report’ poll later today…hopefully…)