Put the words Leicester Tigers and Academy alongside any other National One side and it’s bound to cause a few collywobbles for Coventry supporters.
Loughborough’s decision to work in partnership with Leicester and, in effect, become almost a ‘B’ League side (given that the letter A has already been taken) adds a different dimension to tomorrow’s fixture and despite Loughborough’s lowly position, it’s a game that might well test Coventry rather more than some so far this season.
The last home game against Bishop’s Stortford proved a tense affair and whilst Cov should end up comfortable winners in the end, I do expect Loughborough to push Cov rather more than the likes of Hull, Fylde and Esher. Lest we forget, Old Albanian, a side that also contained a number of Premiership loanees, gave us a real fright in Week 3.
In the last few years, Loughborough has loss heavily at Coventry but the impact of the Leicester contingent should add some resilience to a what is a very young side and given many of their team are, in effect, full-time (being either contracted to Leicester or students at Loughborough), their fitness and stamina shouldn’t be an issue.
The resting of Sammy Tuitupou and Luke Narraway, two of the more ‘senior’ members of the squad, in favour of Frazer Dingwall and Brett Daynes makes sense in that respect. Against a team that will be fitter and will probably play at a greater tempo than many we will face this season, maybe they wouldn’t be quite as effective after the first 40 or 50 minutes.
Latu Makaafi remains in the side but his fitness has been something of a revelation so far and he seems to be able to keep going longer than the likes of Tuitupou and Narraway. His work in defence has made a real difference this season and he’s proved a far more influential figure than perhaps I’d expected when his arrival was first announced. And he’s seldom without a smile off the pitch…
The Loughborough’s tweet announcing their match day squad is somewhat revealing and it’s not too difficult to work out who most, if not all, of the Leicester players are, even if you’re not familiar with the names. Simon Jackson was quick to point out that there are 7 Tigers involved in the game, with perhaps the best known of them (but not to me!) being Joe Maksymiw who had a couple of starts for Donacster last year and made 7 appearances in total – someone Rowland Winter on Thursday singled out as being a very useful player indeed.
However, all seven are 21 or under, other than Maksymiw who was 22 last month, so whilst they are all doubtless fine prospects, they are lacking the experience and ‘nous’ that you so often find in more seasoned National One players. We’ve played enough sides now that have a good complement of Premiership Academy players, so we know what to expect and have a side that is more than capable of ending the game with the five points.
At training on Thursday, RW thought that we might see Rob Harwick’s son, Tom, involved, but even though he played last week for Loughborough, sadly he’s not included in their side to face Cov this afternoon. By all accounts, he’s getting on well at Leicester and a member of the same squad as Freddie Tuilagi.
Oddly, Loughborough’s captain today, Owen Hills, is also a member of Leicester’s Development Squad…interesting that one of the dual registered player should captain the National One outfit.
It’s interesting to see how Loughborough’s team announcement compares to Coventry’s, which also appeared on Twitter:
Cov’s is slick, visually and aurally very impressive. It’s clear that Coventry are making huge strides in terms of their use of social media and at quite a pace. Whilst Loughborough haven’t been able to add photos of the Leicester players involved in today’s game, Coventry has ensured that even Frazer Dingwall’s picture is included and he’s not been with the club for more that two or three weeks. Coventry’s offering looks professional, indeed is professional, and is a further sign that the club is at long last getting to grips with using Twitter effectively. Last season, I always felt that the likes of Cambridge, Fylde, Plymouth and even Moseley were ahead of us in this respect, but that’s definitely not the case any longer.
Cov’s match day Twitter feed is now as good as most other National One clubs and for those not able to make Cov’s games, there are live updates from the club to keep them up-to-date with what’s happening on the pitch. Cov’s decision to take on full-time media guru appears to be already reaping its rewards.
Coventry’s renaissance as far as its own self-promotion is concerned is really important and the club is now reaching out a lot further than it was just 12 months ago.
It wasn’t all that far back that some Cov fans, disillusioned by a lack of success on the pitch, were enticed by the media coverage of Wasps’ arrival onto the local rugby scene. A string of notable wins, as well as some big name players recruited into the club, saw them drift away from the BPA and head in the direction of The Ricoh.
As things presently stand, I don’t think we’re too far away from the situation reversing somewhat.
As Wasps struggle both on and off the pitch this season, Cov is very much in the ascendancy and with Cov’s media machine beginning to to get the measure of its rivals, the success the club has been experiencing these last 9 months or so won’t have gone unnoticed. We’ve seen the crowds already on the increase at the BPA and hopefully they’ll be another decent one today. If results continue to go the way they are and our form becomes a little more consistent, then the steady stream of supporters coming over to Cov this season could end up a torrent by April.
What sort of gate would the last two home games this season attract (consecutive at that) should Cov need to win both to top the league?
Darlington on the penultimate weekend?
It’s feasible, if not somewhat fanciful.
As Coventry keep the pressure up on the pitch, so the club need to continue to do so off it and the recent developments designed to get the ‘Come to Cov’ message across appear far more effective than in the past. With John Wilkinson contributing regular bi-, or even tri-, weekly articles on the website, which also appear on social media, we are definitely being heard, helped by what appear to be an increasing number of articles/features in the Coventry Telegraph.
We are definitely reaching out to a wider audience.
The other thing I’ve noticed is that on every Thursday evening that I’ve attended training for several weeks, if not months, now there has been a major function on in the clubhouse; either some form of marketing/networking for local business, or training courses or more formal catering events.
Indeed, on some days there have even been two events taking place.
It’s something that would normally go unnoticed by the likes of me were it not for the evening training, but evidently while the club prospers on the pitch, Lara and her team are also heavily involved in promoting the club off it, increasing revenue by leasing the facilities for local events.
I’m sure there are even bigger plans for the business side of the club to develop further once the synthetic pitch is installed, but it would appear even now that the club is very much on the up across all areas of operation.
Just a thumbs up for all the backroom staff really, it’s not an area that I cover in the blog as it very much centres on the rugby side of things, but Coventry Rugby Club will never reach its full potential without success both on and off the pitch.
…back to Loughborough today and a win against the Students would see that unbeaten run of 16 games back in 2015/15 equalled, thus ensuring that next weekend the two coachloads of travelling supporters will have an added reason to look forward to that trip to Cambridge (and by the way, Rowland Winter thoroughly recommends the pre-match lasagne apparently).
If you’re still undecided about going – maybe you haven’t even been to an away game with Cov before – then email CRSC1874@gmail.com, get your name down on the list and then just look forward to a really enjoyable day out – you’ll be very well looked after by the Supporters’ Club.
In front of what should be a loud and vociferous home crowd this afternoon, Cov should have enough to overcome what I expect to be a determined Loughborough side.
Take nothing for granted though.
Student loans need repaying eventually and I’m sure Loughborough will want to honour their debt to Leicester Tigers.
Not this afternoon though…
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’ post for details by clicking on the following link:
As always, for those supporters not making their way over to Butts Park Arena today, but who would still like to keep up-to-date with what’s happening in real time, other than just updates of the scores, please let me know and I’ll be happy to tweet regularly from the game.
The tweets, when combined, make a crude ‘commentary’ of sorts. Be warned though, you might get well over a 100 tweets during the course of the game, so if that is too much @CoventryRugby will offer score updates without the bits in between, for the most part. Loughborough has it’s own Twitter feed, @LboroRugby, but it is just updates of scores and nothing else..
Coventry’s twitter feed, @CoventryRugby, will almost certainly be providing updates of scores and key moments in the game, and it’s very different to my ‘tweet anything and everything’ approach to the game.
Please bear in mind, I am a bit one-eyed when I tweet, covering more than just the scores as they occur… there are now other choices available though, depending what it is that you’re looking for.
I’m on @Cowshedtim
Apologies in advance for some of the typos that appear. For some though, that’s the most enjoyable part of the game…
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.
Up the Cov