Following on from yesterday’s post…
…after Hannah’s presentation we heard from Max Hartman who gave an overview of the strength and conditioning programme.
Max began by explaining that data was available that showed the levels of power, strength and speed expected of players in the Championship, as well as in the Premiership and at International level.
The job of the strength and conditioning team is to enable all Cov players to achieve the levels which would enable them to be competitive in the next tier of national rugby and then onwards towards those of the Premiership.
It is very much about taking the current set of players and making them faster, fitter stronger and bigger so that no matter what game plan Rowland Winter and the coaches might have in mind, every player will be able to fit into it, whether this season in National One or next season in the Championship.
In order to do this, the work that Max’s team does has to be both objective and measurable, presumably because you can then determine over time the improvements made by the players.
Backs and forwards are split as each demands specific programmes related to their positions and it is all based around entirely individualised programmes, with slight modifications always on-going.
Although Cov has had more than it’s fair share of longer term injuries so far this season, the number of minor sprains and muscle pulls remains low and one of the reasons for this is down to the intense screening players undergo as part of the strength and conditioning programme run by the club.
Players are carefully assessed to determine potential areas of weakness and exercise routines are then agreed to strengthen joints, muscle groups and so on that might have been identified as causes for concern – thus hopefully ensuring less injury problems during the season.
And it seems to work – yes, unlike last season there have been several longer term injuries in the first three months of this campaign which it’s impossible to legislate against, especially those that have befallen players like Heath Stevens, Pete White and Dave Brazier, as well as the concussion suffered by Tom Jubb.
That said, anyone who has watched Coventry over the last three or four seasons will probably agree that this is a much, much fitter side than those under either Phil Maynard or Scott Morgan. Cov made the decision to invest in quality coaches, including in areas like conditioning and rehab and medical support and the decision seems to be paying off.
The strength and conditioning team is in constant discussions with the coaches, and where there might be an issue with a particular player, his individual programme could be tweaked accordingly.
The Development Squad have a different programme, presumably because they are still physically growing and the same routines used with the senior squad wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate for them.
In his final slide, Max referred to the transfer to a ‘player watch’, which I presume refers to players taking more responsibility for their own fitness…? RW has said in the past that players have to complete regular self-assessments regarding their own health and fitness, something that the coaches see as being extremely important – provided, of course, all players are honest about their own well-being.
Saturday morning of the Moseley game and you wake up with a bit of a sore throat…?
…if you make it, that is.
One of the most interesting things I’ve found about Rowland Winter’s approach to meetings with supporters is his willingness to talk openly about the strengths and occasional weaknesses of his players.
On Tuesday, he began by going through the current senior squad, almost player by player, including a number of the Development Squad as well, highlighting where they currently are in terms of form, fitness and so on.
I’ve included most of what I can recall…
Firstly, Harry Morley has been moved on – having played 25 games for Nottingham in the Championship before he joined us, he’s ended up playing Zoo Shield rugby so far this season and is well down the pecking order of loose-heads at the club. He needs to be playing first team rugby regularly and Cov are trying to find him a club to go to, with either Cambridge or Chinnor a possibility;
As one goes out, so another comes in – another prop, too. Jack Higgins ( a case of the The Eagle Has Landed, I guess) can play on both sides of the scrum and is another Coventry lad. He’s just returned from a spell with North Harbour in New Zealand, playing at a level well above National One;
Charlie Robinson – another prop, this time in the Development Squad, now playing a Towcester and getting some valuable experience;
Will Priestley – starting most games at 2 for the Development Squad and making good progress;
Luc Jeannot – RW described him as one of the most exciting prospects we have, with plenty of ‘raw power’ and quick around the park. He’s been one of the best performers in training and has done well whenever he’s played in the senior team. He was in Northampton’s Wanderers side on Monday (he came off the bench for the final quarter and was one of 7 players in that side with connections, past or present, to Cov!). Luc is clearly being seen at the moment as a future first teamer in the making…;
Phil Ackuaku – ‘the best prop in National One over 10 minutes’! He’s surprisingly quick for such a big man but currently he’s very much a ‘Cov project’. A bit up and down at the moment;
Nathanael Titchard-jones – very strong and fit, as befits someone in the army. Not big for a prop, but so has to be more technical. Has done an excellent job since he’s been with us;
Tom Poole – could be back as early as the new year possibly;
Tom Jubb – had the unluckiest of starts to the season with injury after injury. Important he gets back to full fitness, he offers something different – very athletic and whilst he bucks the trend of what a second row forward should be, he’s a real asset. Doesn’t always do what he’s supposed to be doing, but missed;
Nile Dacres/George Oram – the best 2nd row combination in the league;
Cameron Gray – has already made 7 or 8 appearances in the A league for Wasps, putting on more bulk and being far more involved on the pitch, does the basics really well. ‘One to watch’…like Luc Jeannot, another player who will progress to the full first team eventually;
Olly Povoas – easy to forget that he’s still younger than many in the Development Squad! Great talent already doing battle for the 7 shirt with the best player in the league;
Latu Makaafi – for 40-60 minutes the best player in the league at 6. Cov is managing his game time carefully so as not to over-use him, even though he’s played in all but two games
Brett Daynes – a real clubman, tends to come off the bench but whenever he has been asked to start, whether at 6 or 8, he’s always performed well
Waita Setu – best case scenario, could be back by February or March, although it might be later. More about getting him ready for next season – when fit, he’ll be a cross between a young Latu with the turnover skills of a Jack Preece. Can’t wait to see him play regularly, then!
Tom Price, Sam McNulty, Mike Ryan and Myles Hibbs are all playing regularly in the back row for the Development side. The coaches are working with them to bring them on, but there is obviously still a gap between them and the likes of Narraway, Makaafi and Preece. Again, all working hard and it’s still early days;
Pete White and Dave Brazier – the two best scrum halves in National One. Tom Kessell will be with us until 31st December, by which time Pete White should be back and playing and Dave Brazier not too far behind. RW was asked about the possibility of keeping Tom K on, but it looks a non-starter at the moment. Whilst Tom might be an option in the future (presumably if we get into the Championship), we already have two very talented number 9s and RW will remain loyal to them;
Connor Adams has been playing his rugby elsewhere (Stourbridge?) to gain more experience, but he has shown a lot of promise. Sam Payne is in his first year with the club and has impressed everyone with his determination, often staying an hour after training has finished to put in some extra work. Both Connor and Sam are 9s;
Ben Palmer – has been unlucky to be behind two of the best fly halves in the league – he should be involved more later in the season hopefully;
Anthony Matoto – the coaches have been exploring the best ways to use him. Centre may be his most natural position – he was considered a forward in Tonga;
Fraser Dingwall – highly talented and with us for the next 18 months – a future international player?;
Heath Stevens – hard to tell the full extent of his injury as there was damage to knee and ankle as well as the break. Best case scenario, Heath could be back by March but it might be that it’s more a question of getting him fit and strong for next season. One of the best players when it comes to rehab. Injury certainly tested out the new medical room;
Alex Grove – likely to be back in the new year;
Joe Lane and Isaac McNulty – both will definitely get some first team experience this season, with a couple of potential games already pencilled in;
Jacob Umaga has also joined us on loan from Wasps. Will feature in the Development Squad…early days;
Rob Knox – seemed to have found a way of him defending out wide and attacking from the centre;
Kwaku Asiedu – still very much a learning process for Kwaku. He played no rugby last season following a serious knee injury and the club are ‘treading carefully’ with him at present. Great potential;
James Neal, Max Titchener and Jos Palmer – three talented young players still learning their trade. Still a gap between them and those in the senior squad but they are young and developing all the time;
Brian King and Ron Kempin – both very much the unsung heroes;
Ben Capitani, Tom Branston and Wills Messum – new additions to the media team working with John Wilkinson;
In the absence of Boris Stankovich, Matt Price is leading on the scrum alongside Luke Narraway, aided by experienced players like Phil Boulton and Phil Nilsen – it’s worth remembering that Plymouth’s scrum, reckoned by many to be the best in the league, was second best for much of the game against Cov on Saturday.
Simon Price, Matt Price’s brother, has been brought in to help oversee the management of the Development Squad – the DS has 2 physios and 2 members of the rehab team attached to it providing a very strong set up. With a number of players already having played in the senior side this season , it is likely that 2-3 players from there will be in the first team squad next season. RW repeated that participation in the Zoo Shield is not about results but rather about the experience the players take from participating in it.
From next season there will be an even more structured development pathway at the club:
- 2-7 age group
- Community Engagement working with schools
- U18s Academy
- Development Squad
- 1st XV
Coventry Rugby Club doesn’t want to duplicate any of the great work being done elsewhere in the city and discussions are presently underway regarding the formation of a 2-7 age group.
There were a limited number of questions from the floor but I’m afraid my head had started to spin by then.
Rowland Winter’s update on the playing staff was really appreciated by those present – it was pretty fast and furious at times so inevitably I will have missed somebody out or misquoted/interpreted what was said. As always, I’m happy to amend the post should it be appropriate to do so.
A quick update on the coaches to Moseley.
It looks pretty certain there will be a third coach now, with only 24 seats still remaining on that one!
It is quite extraordinary and it should be home from home for Cov over at Billesley Common on the 23rd December – if we are true to form, we’ll drown out the home support.
It is a massive vote of confidence in the team and, indeed, in the club and it has the makings of being another memorable day in what is starting to become a memorable season.
With two coaches travelling down to Cambridge earlier in the season, those in the know there thought there were probably 350 Cov supporters who made the journey that day.
3 coaches down to local rivals Moseley could mean a fair few more.
Cov’s blue and white barmy army on the march yet again…