It’s just another manic Monday
I wish it was Sunday
‘Cause that’s my fun day
My I don’t have to run day
It’s just another manic Monday
The Bangles – Manic Monday
Cov don’t do manic…not on a Monday, anyway.
Training runs like clockwork – in fact, the organised nature of the session is very much down to clock work, with Rowland Winter barking out the times remaining for each activity and the players moving quickly between them with just long enough allowed to take on liquids and recover before the next strenuous exercise begins.
Given the smiles on the faces of many of the players in the breaks in between, I’m not altogether sure they do wish it was Sunday, because Monday looks very much like a fun day to me.
I’d actually go so far as to say that many of them like the fact that it’s a run day.
That said, this Monday’s training at Summerhill Lane was a little different from the morning sessions I’d been to previously, although it’s hard to put a finger on why.
I think this was the fourth or fifth I’ve been to with Quent and all have been focused and disciplined, and this one was no exception. So no difference there, then. There was plenty of noise as ever, and players seemed, if anything, more relaxed in between the various activities that were going on and there were plenty of smiles and laughter outside of the intensity of the drills.Maybe that was partly down to the fact that all the players had had the previous week off from training and as a group they were pleased to be back doing what they clearly all enjoy.
But there was also very much a sense of growing excitement amongst everyone present, a feeling that was almost tangible…which is hardly surprising given the fact that after six or seven weeks of training amongst themselves, players will at last get to be involved in some competitive rugby when, on Thursday, the squad travels the short distance to Leicester Lions for the first of the pre-season friendlies.
The game against the Lions and that over at Nuneaton next Wednesday will be a far cry from the uber-competitive game we can expect against Jersey a week on Saturday, but the players are clearly itching to start the first of these warm up games and with it the chance to state their cases for selection into the squad for the first National One game in just 5 weeks time.
During the hour and a half we were there, the squad worked in two groups, backs in one and forwards in the other, for much of the time, coming together every so often to work on attack and defence.
The forwards often worked in twos and threes, practising various scenarios at the breakdown, presumably partly as a result of the new law changes…
They also spent some time looking at the put-in at the scrum, swapping over the two scrum halves, Pete White and Dave Brazier, and using different combinations of front rows. The changes in the law regarding the feed has meant clubs have more options available to them at the scrum and under watchful eye of Louis Deacon, the forwards repeatedly went through the engagement process to ensure they are able to maximise the opportunities afforded to them by the new laws.
Rowland Winter came over and explained what it was the forwards were looking to practise and expounded in some detail how the scrum was adapting to the law changes this season. To the uneducated in such matters, the put-in at the scrum has always looked just that, the scrum half feeding the ball in to the feet of the hooker (or second row in some instances) – but it’s not until you listen to the coaches that you really begin to understand the science behind it.
It is very technical and whilst it all made complete sense at the time, I couldn’t possibly begin, two days on, to recall with any accuracy the ins and outs of how the feed and the push and the strike (as is now required) all come together.
(Whilst I did taken some video clips of the players undertaking some of the training routines on Monday, I was careful not to take any of the forwards as they practised their scrummaging as, potentially, that could provide opponents with information they could use to their advantage. Stills only).
Although Boris Stankovich’s coaching role will be greatly reduced given he will be with Leicester on a full-time basis now, Cov are lucky in that the front row remains pretty much intact from last season and the players have had a year together to learn the Stankovich way.
The likes of Brown, Litchfield, Boulton, Tolmie and Price are vastly experienced and with Phil Nilsen arriving and clearly keen to add additional support, as self-help groups go, it’s a pretty strong one. I’ve certainly been impressed with PN’s input already and he will doubtless add some Yorkshire grit to an already pretty seasoned front row.
Phil N is one of the players I’m really looking forward to seeing this season, although Scott Tolmie looks trimmer and fitter and won’t be giving up that No 2 shirt without a fight – to have two quality hookers, both very different in the way they play the game, is a real bonus.
And then there’s Matt Price to add into the equation, along with Will Priestley and Charley Robinson, too….it’s certainly not a position this season where there will be a lack of quality outside of the first and second choices.
On the coaching front, there is also Louis Deacon’s input of course – a talented coach in his own right and one who is clearly thought very highly of elsewhere, given he was in charge of England U20s last season. Capped 29 times for his country, with 6 Premiership titles and 2 European Cups under his belt, he’s someone who’s going to know a thing or two about the set piece and forwards’ play in general.
His influence shouldn’t be understated. He was putting the forwards through their paces on Monday and he is going to have a major say as to just how effective the forwards are this season.
And then, of course, there’s the impact of the likes of Luke Narraway and Phil Boulton, to name but two. Narraway has come to Cov as a player and as a coach and whilst he will be looking mainly at defence, I’m sure he’ll be another important influence amongst the forwards.
We’ve already seen just how influential a player Phil B is and it speaks volumes about his leadership on and off the pitch that the coaches should make him club captain when there are so many experienced players coming into the side this season. I think Phil is only 31 and yet he is already getting involved in the coaching side of the game and is a part of the coaching set up at Earlsdon RFC this season where he will ‘help train the forwards in all aspects of forward play’ (Earlsdon RFC announce appointment of Phil Boulton as forwards’ coach) …
In short, there is a wealth of forwards’ experience already at the club – and, sensibly, the club are intent on making best use of it.
All this is a fairly long-winded way of allaying any fears there might be that the forwards will be compromised by the absence of Boris Stankovich – and of course all the above presumes that Boris won’t actually be involved in some way with supporting the club or individual players in the future…
One of the real pluses of attending the training sessions is to chat to some of the support staff.
Outside of a Monday morning or Thursday evening, I would never get to speak to the likes of Tony Gulliver, Hannah Walker or Ron Kempin, but in quieter moments they’ll pop over to say hello or to have a chat about what’s happening in and around the club, or in Gully’s case, the likelihood of it staying dry enough for a barbecue in the evening.
It’s a real delight, the result of Coventry’s own version of Glasnost, something RW seems to have instilled throughout the playing side of the club. Everything is so much more open these days and supporters are so much better informed.
Ask and you’ll always get an answer.
Speaking to Tony Gulliver is somewhat surreal even now, given I spent so much of my teens and beyond watching him from the stands at Coundon Road. He and Brian Kidner – happy memories!
What is abundantly clear when you chat to Gully and Ron is that the excitement that supporters are currently experiencing is no different to that which those who work so closely with the players are also enjoying.
You get the feeling everyone within the club, certainly on the playing side, senses that things are changing and that Cov is very much a club on the up.
Just how much things have moved forward these last few months will become clearer over the next few weeks but for the time being it’s hard not to believe that the next couple of years or so could be hugely significant in the history of Coventry Rugby Club.
The news of two more signings yesterday only adds to the feeling that Cov at going to be a real force in National One this season…
…but more on that later.
The Saturdays or The Bangles?
I mention The Saturdays because I’ve used ‘Up’ before and it is something of a pop classic, after all.
British dance pop of the 00’s or American pop rock of the 80s?
American pop rock all day long. And they were decent musicians, too.
The best all-female band ever?
Maybe -although the Go-Gos and The Runaways would be in the mix.
And if proof were needed, here they are with ‘Manic Monday’…