Friendlies Season 3 – Episode 2: the one with the Nuns
Some interesting selections for the Nuneaton game then…
I remember Rowland Winter saying that the squad that he took out to Jersey would give supporters a pretty good indication of where he was going in terms of his strongest team in readiness for the opening game against Hull Ionians, which is now just four Saturdays away.
I think he might have thrown us a curved ball there!
I understand that the starting XV for the Jersey game doesn’t include any of the players involved in the Nuneaton game and none of the bench has as yet been selected. They will come from the squad playing later today.
Cov are taking 8 replacements with them at the weekend.
Given that there will be an entire replacement front row and probably an additional two more from the pack, it’s possible to get a reasonable idea of the players who will be on the plane on Friday. Even so, there might be one or two who won’t make the short flight to Jersey who would have been certainly been on my team list – but that’s the great thing about having such a strong squad to select from, everyone will have a different opinion.
And it is also what makes the game against Nuneaton so interesting.
A week ago, if asked to write down my starting team for the midweek game prior to the visit to Jersey, I know I wouldn’t have included the likes of Alex Grove, Tom Wheatcroft, Tony Fenner, Dave Brazier, Andy Brown, Tom Jubb and Latu Makaafi. They would have been certainties to be on board that Friday flight…although they might well still be, of course.
With 28 players on this evening’s team sheet, many of the players down to start the game will probably have no more than perhaps 30 or 40 minutes game time at most, so they would still leave them fresh for the game on Saturday. Playing against Nuns hardly rules them out of contention, but I think the surprise for me is that so many of the most recent signings are playing this evening, especially in the backs.
Just when you think you’ve got an idea of what the team might look like, it’s back to the drawing board. Not that I’m complaining of course as it makes for an even more entertaining evening over at Liberty Way and considering I missed the first fixture over at Leicester, I’ll get the chance to see several of the players whom I believed wouldn’t be required for the Nuneaton game.
In terms of the strength of the opposition today, Nuneaton certainly shouldn’t prove any stronger than Leicester Lions, playing their rugby as they do in the tier below them in the Midlands Premier, where they finished fifth last year. It should mean that many of the Academy players will get a good run out and it will be a chance to see how they cope with competitive rugby at this level.
Indeed, many of them, names that are already becoming familiar even at this early stage of pre-season, players like Luc Jeannot, Will Priestley, Michael Ryan, Sam McNulty, Connor Adams and Max Titchener, all had experience comparable at least to Midland Premier, if not higher, last season – with several of them out on loan to junior clubs whilst still with Cov.
One or two aren’t names I recognise and it might be the case that Cov still has players on trial. Hopefully, we’ll find that out later today.
I’m particularly looking forward to seeing how Cameron Gray and Kailus Hutchinson get on – both are members of the ‘gold’ group of Development players and both second rowers, although Kailus Hutchinson can also play in the back row (where he will be playing this evening). They have impressed in training over the last few weeks and have been working regularly with the first team squad, as indeed have Will Priestley, Sam McNulty and, I think, Luc Jeannot.
With so many of the Zoo League games (I’ll wait for guidance from John Wilkinson before I start changing it to Shield!) preceding National One fixtures at home, it will be especially interesting to see how the careers of these youngsters develop this season and whether they make sufficient progress to play at the next level up, especially given the strength in depth that the club now boasts throughout the team, across all positions.
Tonight isn’t really about the scoreline, although you’d hope that Coventry will run out comfortable winners at the end of the 8o minutes. Disruptions to the side as a result of the many replacements that will be made mean that there will be an obvious loss of continuity with so many breaks in play necessitated by all the changes.
Ideally, it would be good to come away from tonight having seen a couple of the younger players getting themselves noticed and the senior players making a claim for a place in the first team against Sale in a couple of weeks time, presuming they won’t be going to Jersey this weekend.
I’ll tweet some updates from the game for those not able to attend, although in no great detail and provided there is a signal from Jersey, I’ll do the same as I did for National One games last season and provide more of a commentary.
If you aren’t familiar with Twitter or don’t have an account, then on the homepage of this blog (www.coventryrfc.me), all the tweets will appear in real time on the far right of the page, towards the top end.
I can be found at @CowshedTim
Up the Cov!
Jersey suffered what appears at face value to have been a heavy defeat in their opening pre-season friendly against French Pro Division 2 side Vannes on Saturday,
Beaten 38-14, Jersey scored just two tries, worryingly (for them!) conceding 6 in the process.
The Islanders must surely be looking to put in a much stronger performance against Coventry back in Jersey in just three days time where they will be playing in front of their home crowd for the first and only time in the run up to their opening game in the Championship, against Doncaster on 2nd September.
In the match report on their website, Jersey put a brave face on the Vannes result, suggesting that:
…they could take heart from their display.
Not only were Vannes, whose average crowd size and budget are considerably higher than their opponents’ numbers, playing their final match before commencing league hostilities, but they had a more settled squad with 11 returning players in their starting XV. The Reds, by contrast, featured 11 debutants at kick-off time, with another brace introduced from the bench.
That might well be the case, but it must be a concern for the club that finished so strongly last season. The loss of so many quality players is inevitably something of a blow and whilst hopefully they will have recruited strongly, Coventry should be able to provide a closer contest than the 47-5 defeat we suffered there last season, a game in which we conceded 7 tries. In fairness, though, for probably the best part of 40-50 minutes of the game we were able to match them in most areas, especially the set piece.
The problem for me is that in my head following last weekend’s result, I’ve decided that the Jersey we will face on Saturday will be a far cry from that of last season and given our squad is that much stronger, well you can see where I’m going.
Still, whatever the result it will be a much tougher test than anything Cov has faced so far this season and I’m really looking forward to making the short hop across from Birmingham to Jersey on Friday to enjoy a couple of days on tour…:).
Thank goodness we’re not in the Premiership, I’m don’t quite know how I’d cope if Cov was to play in Europe on a regular basis. I’m not sure what the going rate for a kidney is these days, but it might well be that I’d have to sell one in order to meet the cost of European rugby, and probably a few other well-worn parts of my anatomy as well.
The Jersey game, together with the home encounter against Rotherham, should give supporters an idea of the progress we have made over the close season and a couple of heartening performances in those games might well bring in another bumper crowd for that all-important first home game against Birmingham Moseley on the 9th September.
Just a brief reminder that if you are still intending to enter the Predictions Competition 2017, then I’ll be at the game this evening should you want to compete the entry by hand rather than email.
The questions can be found below and the link to the form follows. Please do give it a go, it only takes a minute or two to complete and you can either email it to me or submit it by hand at one of the pre-season friendlies.
There will be a cup awarded to the winner…
(The figures in red at the end of each question refer to the 2016/17 results – they might help as a starting point for your answers…):
All questions refer to end-of-season predictions:
1 Total number of Coventry tries scored (130)
2 Total number of tries conceded (98)
3 Tries scored at home (79)
4 Average home attendance (1263)
5 Highest home attendance (2712)
6 Most points scored by Cov in a match (73)
7 Most individual points scored in a match (22)
8 Total number of league points scored by Cov (101)
9 Total points scored for Cov (974)
10 Total points scored against Cov (738)
11 Number of bonus points won by Cov (17)
12 Number of points scored by leading points scorer (244)
13 Number of tries scored by leading try scorer (10)
14 Total number of yellow cards conceded (25)
Tie break question: What will be the official home attendance vs Moseley
All questions other than 7, 10, 12 and 13 – answers ranked and then points awarded. So, if there are 15 people involved in the competition, the nearest gets 15 points and furthest away gets just 1…
Questions 6, 10, 12 and 13 – spot on 5 points, within 1 either way, 3, within 2 either way, 2, and within 3 either way, 1. Outside of 3 either way, no points scored.
The winner will be the person with the highest total score and said person will be awarded a trophy. In the unlikely even
If you would like to enter, please use the link below that will take you to a form – this should be filled in using a word processor and emailed to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or completed by hand and submitted directly to me at the ground by the final pre-season game, (Rotherham Titans on 26th August).
If you don’t know who I am, I’ll be the bloke with the camera snapping away during the pre-match warm-up…usually looking cold and grumpy.
So here’s the link to the form…
Please don’t forget to include your name and an email address if possible…