Club talk

Should I stay or should I go…?

One day is fine, and next is black
So if you want me off your back
Well come on and let me know
Should I Stay or should I go?

The Clash – Should I Stay Or Should I Go

So we now know of another four players who will be with us next season…two players new to the squad and two players retained.

Two staying and two going…from their present clubs to come to us.

15 in all now by my reckoning and the six players so far announced (including Heath Stevens) all seem to be adding something to next year’s squad over and above what we have had this season. It’s something that is impossible to quantify and squads notoriously always look better on paper…

…but take yesterday’s news, for instance.

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I can’t believe that Nile Dacres is going to be anything but a big hit with Cov fans.

When we went down to Plymouth Albion last month he played in the second row and was judged to be their ‘Man of the Match’ – and rightly so.

The last ten minutes or so of the game were crucial for Plymouth, we were in lead up to then, having just got our noses in front and deservedly so. But we lost a series of lineouts on our put-in and Plymouth were able to capitalise to edge us out in the end.

Part of their success lay in the dominance Dacres enjoyed in the lineout and on the day we just weren’t able to deal with him effectively. He was also prominent in the loose and it isn’t surprising that he can also play in the back row as he is extremely mobile for a big man and with a decent turn of speed, with a safe pair of hands as well.

His pace is a key part of his game and speaking last season (2015/16) having just signed him, the then Plymouth DoR, John Dawe, said of him:

He was obviously a talented youngster and he’s still got that ability in him. We need to try and create positions to try and make use of his pace and ability on the ball.

We know the ability and qualities he’s got, but it’s about how the rest of the squad pans out in the next few weeks which might decide is position. We might look to develop him as a number eight or seven.

In the recent England Counties game against Scotland Club XV he and George Oram were prominent in most all of the forward play and Dacres was quick to take the play to the opposition wherever possible. He is a natural ball carrier and he will add more mobility to an already mobile pack, especially if he plays in the second row. The issue when he went to Plymouth was, by all accounts, whether he had the physical presence to play in the second row rather than at 7 or even 8.

50 appearance for Plymouth in less than two years has kind of put that one to bed…

Certainly in the two games I saw last month it wasn’t an issue at all – and with both he and Tom Jubb able to slot into the back row their are plenty of options available, especially if we have a couple of injuries amongst the back five forwards.

With Rob Conquest and Brendon Snyman both gone, Dacres is going to fill an obvious gap. Having  already played Championship rugby for both Rotherham and Moseley, he’s exactly the sort of experienced player we need and rather like Jubby, I think he’ll become a firm favourite with the Coventry supporters.

Snyman was a real loss and Rob Conquest, for whatever reasons, didn’t really have much game time. The addition of Dacres fills one of those spots so I’m guessing we’re still looking at maybe one more second row specialist to come in, with perhaps a few more opportunities for young Cameron Gray to have a run out as well – he looks another very athletic lock whenever I’ve seen him in training. I’m hoping Tom Poole stays – he’s a real powerhouse in the second row and brings a bit more physicality to the forwards when he plays.

Below are some highlights of Nile Dacres from the 2015/16 season. Have a look at his Attack profile (just click on the tab) to see exactly how dangerous he can be – sadly a couple of clips are against Cov, scoring a try in one of them…

 

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James Neal – not the easiest person to find a photo of…

James Neal isn’t a player I’d come across before, but a quick check on the Internet suggests that he’s someone who’s going to be well-suited to the style of rugby preferred by Coventry since Rowland Winter took over as Director of Rugby.

Written a little over 18 months ago, I found this on the Kenilworth rugby site after it was announced that James had won an England Counties U20s cap to play the Romanian Barbarians:

James, Coventry born and Kenilworth adopted, played throughout the Mini & Junior years (7-16) at Kenilworth Rugby Club and finally moved to Rugby Lions to be part of their successful Colts team. During this time, James focussed on both athletics and judo to increase both his speed and his strength/technique and this has obviously paid dividends.

After James finished at Kenilworth School, he is now studying for a degree in physical education at Hartpury College, a sporting centre of excellence which has produced a string of internationals and whose senior side currently sit in National League 1.

He scored a hat-trick in the game and played alongside our own Jay Heath, who I think I’m right in saying is the only member of Coventry’s current squad not to make a National One appearance this season. It would be somewhat ironic if James Neal replaces Heath in the squad, but this might very well be the intention, given so little has been heard of Jay since the pre-season friendlies.

A couple of interesting things come out of the brief announcement about James’ appointment on the website. First, he is another local lad – I do think it is important to have a core of Coventry born players in the squad, players who know what it means to play Cov and who understand its history and empathise with its supporters.

Secondly, in making his Coventry roots clear, RW says:

As a local lad who we have been keeping an eye on, we are delighted he is joining his home town club…

I guess I assumed Cov had some sort of scouting system in operation, but have never actually heard it stated before – presumably a decision that had been closely vetted Brendan Burke, just as any forwards coming in will be watched closely by Boris.

At least we know we will be getting a player who is well known to the club, making it much more likely that he’ll settle in quickly and play his part. Our wings haven’t been our greatest strength this season and we have tended  to rely overly on Owain James and Tom Howe for a lot of the time. Dan has moved on, Max Trimble has suffered from injuries and Jay Heath doesn’t appear to be around any more so I rather think there might be another one or two wingers coming in before pre-season begins.

Corey Hircock has done a tremendous job playing out wide and at centre and I can’t imagine he won’t be retained, although we have seen a lot less of him over the last few weeks.

The arrival of James Neal is also an important reminder that not all signings are going to be big names or experienced players.

Along with the Dacres, Stokes and Hodgsons, there are going to be one or two James Neals and in some respects they are the most important signings of all. We know exactly what to expect from the likes of Grove, Preece and Makaafi, but not  really from James. If he can fit into the squad and contribute what is expected of him, the squad becomes that much stronger – Sam Harry this season is a perfect example of this, having improved immensely over the course of the season and exceeded most supporters’ expectations.

I guess the gamble is just that little bit greater with players who are untried and untested at this level, although in fairness James played 6 National One games for Hartpury in the 2015/16 season.

It goes without saying that the retentions of James Stokes and Cliffie Hodgson are extremely welcome and both significant in terms of the medium to long term aims for the club.

Whilst Cliffie’s impact has been lessened somewhat by a lengthy recuperation from what had been a long-standing injury problem, we have recently seen how important he is to the squad in the latter half of the season. With both Fenner and Maisey ahead of him on the kicking front,  Cliffie now has more time to concentrate on other aspects of his game and I do think he’ll be all the better for that.

I can’t foresee us bringing in another full-back as Cliffie is the natural cover for James and we know that both Will Maisey and Rhodri Adamson are both comfortable there if needed and, in Rhodri’s case, if here…

The retention of James is particularly good news, both for the team and for the supporters. He is a real talent on the pitch and every time he picks up a ball in space, there is an expectation that we are about to witness something special. He has the ability to make things happen from almost anywhere on the pitch and many of Coventry’s most exciting plays this season have involved a Stokes break.

I wonder if the proposed synthetic surface coming our way for the start of next season might have been a factor in JS’s decision to stay. I rather think that playing on drier, firmer pitches every other game during the winter might be rather appealing for a player who enjoys playing such attacking rugby.

I’m sure there will have been interest in both players from clubs in our league and above. The fact that they have agreed to extend their contracts by another year shows the belief they have in the vision being expressed by Jon Sharp and the coaches at the moment.

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

I imagine one of the controlling factors as to when names of players recruited by the club for next season are released to joe public is if we have yet to play their current club. This would only occur in the case of players we are recruiting from National 1 but, even so, it might  determine when news is announced.

For instance, it would put the likes of Alex Grove and Jack Preece in an impossible position if we announced  their move to us and we had yet to play our home game against Moseley.

I daresay Mose wouldn’t be too chuffed either.

The present system of weekly updates though is so much more preferable to previous seasons where it was left much later, with some being announced well into the close season.

I don’t know if there are players in our present squad waiting for confirmation as to whether they will be staying on for another season or released and in  need of finding another club.

If there those who have yet to hear…

…this one is for them.

The Clash – Should I Stay Or Should I Go…?

(Turn up the volume and let it rip)

Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go, there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know

RIP Joe Strummer

 

 

 

 

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