Tue. May 11th, 2021

The news that the Development Academy’s game against Chinnor has had to be postponed came as a big disappointment to the supporters who turned up to watch the training session yesterday evening.

And it was an even bigger disappointment to Coventry’s Director of Rugby, Rowland Winter.

Coventry has agreed to rearrange it, tentatively, for 18th November which would be a blank weekend otherwise and whilst no reason was given for the cancellation (or if it was I didn’t hear it), I got the distinct  impression it was as a result of a request from Chinnor, rather than the other way round.

For the record, no team is penalised following a cancellation provided both teams can agree an alternative date. However, the points and position in the league are of far less importance than the experience the players will gain from competing in the Zoo Sports Shield competition.

Cov had tried to arrange an alternative fixture for Saturday, but as RW pointed out, how many clubs, presumably locally based, would be willing to put out an additional side at the last minute and travel to Cov to play a team that was probably going to put a fair few points past them?

The coaches are keen for the youngsters to get as much game time as possible, so the cancellation was a blow from that respect, with a number of them pushing for places in the senior side now, especially in the backs.

RW mentioned that the likes of Isaac McNulty and Joe Lane aren’t too far away from a first team debut, although for Saturday’s game it’s Frazer Dingwall who gets the nod. Selection for Saturday’s senior squad was still undecided following an injury to Tom Emery – who will go out wide to partner Anthony Matoto hadn’t been confirmed when RW went through the team with the supporters.

I imagine James Stokes would be one option, with presumably Ben Palmer at full back, or James Neal the other. Rob Knox isn’t yet quite ready for a return as he still struggling to grip, but he’s not far off and it looks like Anthony Fenner will be making an appearance in the next week or two, if only from the bench. And welcome news that is, too.

Max Trimble also has his sights set on playing in the next couple of weeks, although I guess he might need a run out with the Development side before making a return to the senior squad?

Good news then, on the injury front…

RW was asked about the reason behind the Development Academy’s 5.00 pm kick off, something that certainly isn’t seen as a particularly positive move amongst the supporters who were present last night.

And it appears the reason is purely to determine whether the later start would be a greater success financially to the club than the 12.30 kick offs that are the norm for most of Cov’s Academy games. Trialling the later start is absolutely the right thing to do – unless the club pilots it,  it will never know.

Rightly in my opinion, the club is unwilling to charge supporters an extra, say, £5 to watch the Development Academy game. £20 entrance in total, plus perhaps car parking and a programme, takes the total expenditure to potentially £26 which is probably going to reduce the numbers watching the Academy side. To do so would potentially result in a decrease in the total revenue that might accrue from larger numbers attending if no additional cost is imposed in order to watch the second game.

In short, will more people come in early than would stay on later?

The attraction of a later start for the club would be if supporters were to stay on following the senior game and head to the bar for a drink or two before, during and even after the game. The club has to look carefully at the financial implications involved, it’s something the club need to know and certainly the decision to have the later games makes more sense in the light of what RW said yesterday, provided, of course, it results in an increase in revenue.

With the postponement of the game tomorrow, Cov will have far less evidence to go on, especially following the problems surrounding the admin. of the Academy’s game against Bishop’s Stortford that did little to promote the benefits of a later start to many of the supporters who remained after the first team game.

I know my place…

Rowland Winter was well aware of the concerns, although I don’t think he was overly impressed that I’d voiced most of them in a post, given I hadn’t been present for the vast majority of the game. Saturday night is often the one day in the week when you’re most likely to go out on an evening – if the game finishes around 7.00 pm or later, well that makes the late start something of an…er..non-starter.

To be fair, Rowland did make the point that at most of the away games they’ll be a lack of facilities for Zoo Shield games, including no scoreboard (with games often played on a different pitch), no PA, no linesman running the line, no stands for the supporters and so on. It’s hard to argue against that…there’s absolutely nothing wrong at all with Academy players seeing the other side of National One rugby…

…the only argument I would counter it with is,  just because other clubs do…

And I imagine the better the atmosphere and conditions surrounding the game, the more supporters will stay on…a syllogism of sorts.

However, that’s by-the-by and I got the distinct impression from what Rowland said that some issues regarding the lights, both floodlights and those in the main stand, would certainly have been addressed had the game gone on.

That’s the great difference between the current management of the club and that under Phil Maynard and Scott Morgan. Back then, you never knew if the club was listening to its supporters because it never fed back.

Me, I’m more than happy having heard what Rowland Winter said last night, if only because I now understand what it is the club wants to achieve by the later start. Yes, there were a few teething problems, but in the wider context it makes complete sense. Just how successful the 5.00 0’clock starts would prove to be can’t yet be determined given the cancellation of tomorrow’s game, but at least the reason for them is clear.

Communicating to supporters, whether during training, after a game or through John Wilkinson via the website, is such a simple thing and yet it is so empowering. For me, someone who will occasionally prod and probe, or just simply moan because I just have that sort of personality, well I’m left happy because I get to see the wider picture.

But that wasn’t always the way at Cov…

Anyway…a brief word on Loughborough.

Their partnership with Leicester is clearly developing at a pace and when they come a-visiting on Saturday, it is likely that the team will include 8 or more players currently attached to the Premiership club (RW started to list them by position but I lost the thread, I’m afraid). It seems likely that the entire front 5 will be from Leicester, all playing A-League rugby, and that means they will have had the benefit of working with Boris Stankovich on pretty much a daily basis.

Whilst Boris only coaches Loughborough for an hour a week,  his contact with the Leicester contingent is sure to have had a big influence on their front row at the very least. Whilst I’m sure he holds fond memories of his time with Coventry, I rather expect he would like to put one over on us, if only to remind us of what we are missing (if reminding we need).

Fortunately, we have a pack that is arguably as good as any in National One, other than in defence, an area of course where  Blackheath are streets ahead of any other side (for those who read The Rugby Paper). Loughborough’s current form suggests that, at the moment, Leicester’s involvement isn’t having as much impact as they hope it will eventually, with just the one win in 7. However,  it will improve and they haven’t been heavily defeated in those games they’ve lost, other than against Rosslyn Park, and they’ve already faced Plymouth, Darlington and Ampthill.

Coventry certainly don’t seem to be taking any chances and RW looks to have selected a strong side, especially as we have home advantage. The weather might play it’s part too, with what looks to be a fair likelihood of rain around, or just after, kick off. With the students used to playing their home games on a synthetic surface, this is one of those occasions where a wet, soggy pitch, one of the stamina-sapping variety, might be very much to our advantage.

It looks like Storm Brian (probably the most ill-suited of names for a storm as you’ll ever come across, being synonymous with snails and reluctant leaders of religious factions) will miss the Midlands, so there’s another positive. And what rain we do get shouldn’t be sufficient to put off would-be supporters from attending and the general consensus amongst those at training was  it will be another decent crowd of 1500 plus. I certainly hope so…there’s a definite belief amongst many supporters that Cov is moving in the right direct and there’s a sense optimism growing all the time.

A strong performance at home and a win to equal the current record of 16 consecutive wins won’t do anything to lessen that and, whilst few are predicting anything other than a top two or three finish publicly, the longer we are on the winning streak, the more supporters will start to believe. Another large and noisy Cov crowd will be sure to serve the team well on Saturday. If we keep heading the table and Wasps keep failing to live up to expectations, then most likely we will win back some of the support that we undoubtedly lost in the 2015/16 season.

Tomorrow’s game isn’t going to be as straightforward as the National One table might suggest and I’m certainly not going for a huge win on the Prediction League this week. Top vs almost bottom it might be, but the Students are capable of playing a fast, entertaining game and are more than capably of catching us cold if we’re not careful. However, I do believe that we’ll still be top come 5.00 pm tomorrow and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the result of the Blackheath v Darlington game. Provided Cov win, any of the possible outcomes from Eltham will strengthen Cov’s position at the top.

If the rugby gods are listening, a home win for Blackheath would suit us best, preferably without the bonus point, please.

And if they could fix it for Old Elthamians to beat Plymouth (away), then that would round off the day nicely, thank you very much.

Why, I’d even be happy if Dom scored a couple…


Very many thanks to everyone who has already voted in yesterday’s poll to determine Coventry Rugby Club’s National One Dream Team 2010-2017. If you haven’t and would like to, please refer to National One 2010-2017 Coventry Dream Team  for details, or simply complete the polls below.

Once again for taking part…



By Tim

Any thoughts:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.