Cambridge v Coventry…training update
Time was drifting
This rocker got to roll
So I hit the road and made my getaway
Restless feeling, really got a hold
I started searching for a better way
Climax Blues Band – Couldn’t Get It Right
Thursday is training day and Thursday’s child has far to go – about 81 miles as the crow flies to Cambridge.
Saturday is game day and Saturday’s child works hard for a living – but is rewarded with the 5 points and a chance to leapfrog Rosslyn Park next weekend.
I’ve been asked to avoid giving out any team news until it has gone to press on Friday, which apparently is at 9.00 am. on a Friday.
All a little awkward really, given I usually end up on a Friday writing about Thursday evening’s final practice before the game on Saturday, when the selected team plays against the rest of the squad for much of the session. Those who attend always know the line-up well in advance of the team news appearing on the club website, which makes the request seem a little bizarre.
However, I certainly don’t want to upset the apple cart, so apologies to those who like to read the blog well before the 9.00 o’clock watershed, so-to-speak.
Not on Fridays anymore.
All I can do is write as I normally would, but post the blog after the team officially appears on the club website, or after 9.00 am, depending on which comes first.
Some weeks are better than others…
…and then there are weeks like this one.
Not the best, to put it mildly.
So the chance to get into the fresh air and spend an hour or so in the company of some good people, chatting about rugby past and present and quizzing Rowland Winter about all things Coventry was just too good an opportunity to miss.
So I didn’t.
Miss it, I mean
It was certainly an enjoyable session to watch – forwards and backs working in isolation to begin with, then the whole squad coming together to practice some areas of attack and defence, before, finally, the starting XV going through their paces against the rest of the squad.
The only person missing was Tom Howe who will be playing on Saturday but was unavailable for yesterday’s practice session, with Cliffie Hodgson standing in for him on the night.
I believe the only change in the forwards from the Ampthill game will be Brett Daynes starting in place of Darrel Dyer who has been unwell (I think) this week. Darrel did take part in the training session, but is evidently not 100%.
And, whilst this Coventry team are always going to miss Dyer’s presence in the back row, I am really pleased Brett starts against his former club.
In the home game against Cambridge, Brett came on as a replacement for Olly Povoas on the hour (and scored) but, this time round presumably Darrel’s misfortune is Brett’s gain. I would imagine Brett had this one pencilled into his diary right back in September and he’ll be relishing the chance to play back at Grantchester Road, as will James Stokes, of course.
There are a couple of changes in the backs, with Rob Knox replacing Tom Wheatcroft at centre and Max Trimble going out wide to accommodate Knox’s switch. The team is probably not that far off being the strongest we could put out with the squad as it currently is.
The coaches have hinted that, given the successes the team has enjoyed since there has been more continuity in selection over the past few weeks, they will continue to pick their best XV and this certainly seems to be the case this weekend.
Rowland Winter was never going to tinker with selection for this game anyway, given the importance attached to it. The last thing he’ll want to do is to have to make polite conversation in the bar afterwards having been beaten, so it’s not surprising to see Coventry field such a strong side, even if it is just a week before the Rosslyn Park game – which for me remains the last big test of Coventry’s progress.
I’d be just the same…personal pride can be a strong motivator on and off the pitch…
Will Maisey retains the fly half position, although Tony Fenner could have played. However, the less TF plays before the end of the season, the better his next pre-season will be, so it’s swings and roundabouts really.
It’s a game that should play into Will’s hands.
Both teams like to run with the ball, and with the weather set to improve, Will can get the backs moving. although I would also like to see him take on the Cambridge defence himself, something he did to particularly good effect against Ampthill.
Outside him, the new partnership of Knox and Stevens looks particularly exciting, with Rob playing at inside centre. They are both strong runners, although I think Rob is probably less direct than Heath for the most part. With Howe and Trimble out wide and Stokes at full back, I can’t see Cov wanting to play anything other than an expansive game provided they get the ball – they certainly have an abundance of pace and power at their disposal. And with the pack remaining dominant despite the absence of both Brown and Stankovich, there should be plenty of ball available.
Yesterday’s practice session certainly seemed to suggest that the runners would do just that…run at the opposition. There were a few butterfingers early on, but as the session wore on the passing got crisper and the offloads better timed and, by the end of the evening, the backs looked really sharp.
With Brendan Burke absent from training (at odd sessions previously he’s been keeping a watchful eye on some of the development squad players at some of the local junior clubs), much of the actual coaching, other than when the backs and forwards separated early on, fell to Nick Walshe.
He was barking out instructions and had the players working on what looked like keeping their defensive line and also on lines of attack – it was pretty fast and frenetic, although all very controlled. Watching as we were from the main stand, it all looked very impressive and you certainly got the feeling that this is a team confident and focused.
At the end of the session, NW spoke to Knox and Stevens together for a bit, as well as going through a few training exercises with scrum halves Pete White and Sam Grasso – an ex-England international himself, Walshe is just the right person to be working with Pete and Sam.
Rowland Winter did chat a little bit about recruitment/retentions. He was, as ever, fairly cryptic in what he had to say which is understandable under the circumstances. He said the squad would probably end up at 33, to include two coaches. He did say there were 7/8 more announcements to be made with there being a pretty even split between players new to the club and those retained.
No names of those coming in, but he did suggest that one deal that he thought had fallen through had recently been completed successfully and he looked genuinely excited about it, adding they were ‘saving the best ’til last…’, although I think that was probably just to toy with us!
That said, it will certainly keep my interest going until the final announcement…
Winter 1 Supporters 0, I guess.
We learned the final names of the players to be retained, but I think they’ll have to come via the club first but, without giving too much away, it is pretty much as expected.
Whereas two seasons ago, spectators were all a bit nonplussed by some, if not all, of the players coming into the club for the start of the 2015/16 season, this year there is a genuine sense of excitement. Many of the players recruited are familiar names like Grove, Preece, Dacres and Makaafi, whilst others like Neal and Morely look to have real potential, especially with coaches of the quality of Walshe and Stankovich to bring them on.
Exciting times and with the suggestion there might be a couple of interesting signings yet to come.
Rowland Winter is clearly looking forward to the Cambridge game on Saturday. Despite appearing to be suffering from a bit of a cold, he was very upbeat, although in no sense overconfident and even offering a bit of advice for the travelling supporters, viz-a-viz it’s advisable to sit away from the lone drummer at Cambridge!
It was suggested that Mark H (who was also at the training session) should sit next to him which would definitely would make for an interesting sub-plot, provided you’re on the opposite side of the pitch, of course.
I think RW was pleased that it looks like the Supporters’ Club have pretty much filled the coach for Saturday…which means that when you add on all those Cov fans making their own way there, it will be a pretty decent turnout on the day and Cov are sure to make themselves heard.
Cambridge’s highest attendance of the season thus far would appear to be 620 and I would venture to suggest that Saturday’s figure might well exceed that, given the travelling support and the popularity of Messrs Winter, Stokes, Burke, Daynes et al amongst the home supporters.
I hope so, not least because big crowds bring in big money to the home team, especially in a league where budgets are so tight.
It’s not going to be anything like as one-sided as the first encounter back in November and it might well be a close affair, and a fairly high-scoring one at that. If Cov can play to its strengths and not be fazed by being away from the BPA (hopefully, the Cov away support might make a difference here), then we have enough ability across the team to make it very difficult for Cambridge.
Fail to play to the game plan and get caught in the Cambridge (
headlights) floodlights and it could be a long and frustrating afternoon.
I’m hoping that recent performances against Plymouth and Blaydon suggest we are over the problems we encountered earlier in the seasin – we are due a big game away from home at some point this season and maybe tomorrow is the day everything clicks into place.
The Climax Blues Band sang about how that:
Restless feeling, really got a hold
I started searching for a better way
Well, there have been too many restless nights of late following far too many away defeats, and whereas The Climax Blues Band kept ‘looking for the light’ , I believe we’ve found it in the last couple of games away from home.
I’m so looking for a good night’s sleep on Saturday…
Climax Blues Band – 1980 (SUPPORTED by UB40 for 60p a ticket)
I was there…
(but never on TOTPs).