Club talk

Heath Stevens…Jacques Le Roux and Moseley…more on the Fylde game…

But I know the neighbourhood
And talk is cheap when the story is good
And the tales grow taller on down the line
So I’m telling you, babe
That I don’t think it’s true, babe
Or even if it is keep this in mind…

…I don’t believe it, not for a minute
You’re under the gun so you take it on the run

REO Speedwagon – Take It On The Run

One of the big pluses coming out of last weekend’s game against Fylde, and they were in very short supply, was the contribution made by Heath Stevens, following his early entrance into the fray as a result of an injury to James Stokes.

Stevens, making his 80th appearance for Coventry, showed exactly why the club acted so quickly to bring him back to the BPA, making a number of strong runs that caused plenty of uncertainty in the opposition defences.

The great thing about the way Stevens plays is he is so direct, running hard and straight at the opposition, with the result that it often takes two or three players to bring him down, invariably breaking the first tackle.If Heath Stevens is an example of the type of signings that Rowland Winter is planning to bring in between now and the start of next season, then they can only strengthen the squad. Although he hasn’t played a great deal of rugby so far this season, he looked liked he was relishing the chance to prove himself and I would imagine he’s in the reckoning for a start against his former club, Plymouth Albion, next weekend.

I suspect he might be looking forward to that one.

What I’m not clear about is just how long a contract Stevens has been offered by Coventry. Is it a temporary one until the end of the season which will give him time to see what other offers are on the table for him in April, or has Coventry been able to convince him to stay on for next season as well?

Maybe I’ve missed confirmation, one way or the other? If Stevens does remain here next season, I’m sure he’s going to quickly become a firm favourite with the Coventry crowds who will once again warm to the no nonsense approach to his game.

Another Cov favourite, this time a former one, won’t be making a return to Coventry next season despite one or two whispers over the last week or so.

Jacques Le Roux has signed another two year contract with Moseley that will take him up to the end of the 2018/19 season. With Moseley clearly finding life in National 1 harder off the pitch than on it, Kevin Maggs has already fallen victim of the financial constraints resulting from relegation as the club has:

had to address the financial stability of the club going forward. It has become clear that the level of expenditure cannot be sustained.pe

Further, in a recent message from the Moseley Board placed on their website, it appears that the club:

cannot sustain the playing budget at current levels and this has impacted on our ability to retain Kevin as our Director of Rugby. 

Understandably, therefore, there has been a fair amount of speculation amongst those Cov supporters happy to enjoy a good bit of gossip and rumour as to who might be heading down the A45 in our direction come April.

At least we know now that if there are to be a couple of Moseley players joining us (and if you do listen to the rumours, there probably will be…), then it’s not going to be either Jacques or Chris Brightwell, another name widely touted.

By retaining Le Roux and Bracewell, Moseley clearly want to make a statement of intent to their supporters, the announcement coming much earlier than one might normally expect.

And I’m delighted for Jacques.

He seems to have  settled well over at Billesley and:

become a firm supporter’s favourite with his aggressive attacking charges  never failing to make ground with ball in hand.

 I think everyone who has watched him play over the last few seasons will be able to visualise Jacques on the charge…opposition players flailing in his wake.

Perhaps the most pleasing thing about his move is that since he’s been at Moseley, he has managed to stay fit and has apparently played in every game so far this season. For the two previous seasons at Cov, Jacques suffered a terrible run of injuries, so it’s good to see that he now seems to be over the worst of his problems.

If I’ve got the stats right, Jacques only started 44 games for Cov in four seasons, making 54 appearances in total which shows just how much his time with us was affected by injuries.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Back to Saturday’s game…

I did feel especially sorry for Jake Byrne…he came on, for Andy Brown, after we had gone 12-24 up only to be replaced by Phil Boulton after not much more than 20 minutes on the pitch, with Fylde 26-24 up and the game having already run away from Cov.

The scrum was wobbling a little by then and Cov had been forced to concede a penalty, so I imagine the coaches felt that Phil’s experience was needed at that point. But it’s hard to come on and then have to go off again so quickly – something of a steep learning curve for Jake, that one.

He’s clearly a player with a future in the game and he’ll bounce back, I’m sure, but it will have been a tough afternoon for him. Games like that make you or break you…but James is made of stronger stuff

Rob Knox again looked keen to get involved and made some strong runs with limited possession. Once again, he was denied a try by a forward pass, the third time this has happened in two games (I think). He certainly looks far more confident with ball in hand and hopefully, rather like Jacques Le Roux, the worst of his injury problems are behind him now. If they are, it will be like having a new signing join, so little have we seen of him over the last couple of seasons.

No one else has really commented on it, but James Stokes’ fitness is becoming something of a concern. He hobbled off after just a few minutes of the Fylde game, the 8th time he hasn’t finished a game in 17 starts. He’s obviously desperate to play every game and is a real talisman for the team, but he appears to have struggled a little with injuries this season.

As mentioned before, Heath Stevens replaced him and had an impressive debut, but James’ absence meant that Will Maisey had to drop to full back to allow Stevens to play alongside Tom Wheatcroft which obviously disrupted things a little. His place in the side to play Plymouth this weekend must clearly be in question now and with James Pritchard gone, perhaps we might see Cliffie Hodgson wear the 15 shirt for the trip down to Devon?

The other player worthy of a mention is Sam Grasso – a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde performance for me, although the feeling on the coach on the way back was that he’d had a very encouraging return  following such a length lay off.

And indeed, he did, although it seemed his pass was a little slow at times and not always accurate, putting Tony Fenner under a little more pressure than he has been used to. To be fair, he left the pitch with Coventry in control, certainly as far as the score line was concerned, but when Pete White came on as his replacement, the ball seem to be leaving the scrum half’s hands that much quicker.

After such a long lay off, Sam will have been a bit rusty and maybe I’m being overly critical…it will be interesting to see how he gets on against Plymouth if he starts the game. However, he sniped and harried well and put in a good defensive shift, so he’ll have been pleased to have got that first game out of the way having played well and avoided any knocks or bumps along the way.

I’m still undecided about the journey down to Plymouth at the weekend. If I go, it will be for the day and whilst it’s not a bad journey down by train, it is a long day. That said, I’m never very good company on match day afternoons when I miss a game…permanently glued to my phone or the Internet. Hopefully, I’ll get down to training this week and that will be just the catalyst I need to make the decision.

I have to say, it would have been a much easier one to make had we beaten Fylde at the weekend!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I know there are supporters who don’t like rumour and speculation and it’s not always a healthy thing in which to indulge. However, it’s what supporters do across all sports. You only have to follow the GOSSIP link on the BBC website or listen to Radio 5 Live’s 606 to see just how popular a good bit of rumour can be…

Those Cov supporters I know well enjoy nothing better than speculating who might be coming or going…however, for those who don’t want to be part of the rumour mill and see it as distracting and at times misleading, this one is for you…

REO Speedwagon…Take It On The Run

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