Club talk

On the 7th Day of Christmas the Coventry Rugby Club MVP you voted for is…

Day 7 of the Coventry’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) 2017 poll results and this time it’s 6th place that’s up for grabs.

And you voted for:

Nile Dacres

Nile Dacres has started in all but one of the 15 league games this season, alongside Jimmy Litchfield and Will Maisey with James Stokes the only ever-present, a sure indication of the just how important the coaches feel he is to the success of the team.

Not only that, but of those 14 games, Nile has played the full 80 minutes in all but one of them, no mean achievement for a forward whose work rate is so high.

He has become one of the linchpins of the team, a player who came to Coventry more as a blindside flanker than a second row but who is now regarded primarily as a 4.

In previous seasons and under different coaches, the lineout has often been an area of weakness but, under the guidance of Louis Deacon, Cov has been stronger in this department than for as long as I care to remember and this season it has been rare for us to lose the ball on our own throw, with Dacres, Oram and Narraway/Daynes being so dominant, supported of course by the accuracy of throw from Scott Tolmie and Phil Nilsen (once bitten…).

But Dacres is also a great spoiler in the line out too, as Coventry found to their cost down at Plymouth last season when, in the final 15 minutes, we lost the lead as Plymouth won the ball from three or four of our lineouts, with Dacres the standout player and voted man of the match on the day.

In fact the story goes that Rowland Winter had met up with Nile the evening before the game to finalise his move to Coventry and on leaving his parting words to Nile were something along the lines of ‘you’d better not clean us out in the lineouts tomorrow’.

Which of course is exactly what he did.

Had it not been for the dominance Nile showed in those closing minutes, we almost certainly would have gone on to win the game. For much of that first 65 minutes we were the stronger team. It was the coldest day of the year too as far as watching the rugby was concerned, it was absolutely bitter. Had we known that Dacres was on his way over to the BPA we might not have felt quite so disheartened on the way back…

At training Rowland Winter has often remarked on just how good ND is in the role of calling Coventry’s lineouts, something that George Oram also mentioned in an interview with John Wilkinson. I’ve never really understood why this is quite so important and what’s involved in deciding whether you throw short, to the middle or to the back of the lineout – perhaps that’s one for a Supporters’ Club sessions with LD or Nile, but whatever the significance, it appears it is something that Nile is particularly good at.

In another of the website interviews with John Wilkinson, Nile referred to it himself

It’s something I’ve just grown into over the years and taken a bit of responsibility for…and I’m enjoying that part of the game

There’s clearly more to it than just the call itself, so it would be interesting to learn why particular calls are made –  for instance, the decision to throw long by Moseley 5m out from their own line in the second half led directly to Phil Nilsen’s magnificent  1 m dive-in, a decision which seemed odd at the time and even odder now.

ND is exceptionally athletic for such a tall man and it’s not hard to see why he’s had plenty of success playing at 6. He does seem to be able to out jump the opposition and whilst I imagine part of that must be down to the lifters, Nile seems to be able to get additional height from somewhere.

John Coles’ photo (above)clearly shows Nile out-jumping the Moseley 5 despite the opposition jumper getting the added lift from the 4 as well – although in fairness it does show the strength and athleticism of both players.

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It was always likely that Nile was going to be a success at Coventry given he had been one of the standout players in the league last season and had represented England Counties alongside George Oram against Scotland and Ireland last February.

Should Coventry gain promotion this season, Championship rugby won’t be altogether new to Nile Dacres. He’s had 27 appearances in the second tier of national rugby, 21 with Moseley and the rest with Rotherham, although of those 27, 18 were from off the bench.

A number of Coventry players spent time at Championship clubs early on in their careers before dropping to National One, presumably because they weren’t able to retain a regular place in their respective sides – Nile’s current partner in the second row, George Oram was another. One of the really interesting things for me if we are successful in our promotion attempts over the next season or two will be how these players fare second time around.

Now older, with a lot of more games under their belts and playing in a successful side with quality coaches, I’d imagine they’d be able to compete certainly with teams in the bottom half of the league even without the addition of further quality players.

Certainly given the way that players like Nile are dominating the league at the moment, provided they have both the physical and mental strength to hold on to their current lead at the top of National One, then that’s the next big test for them should they decide to stay with Cov.

And for the coaches too, of course.

On announcing Nile’s arrival at Cov, Rowland Winter remarked that:

Nile will be an excellent addition to our pack. He proved his quality with his outstanding performance against us last month, and he has been one of the best forwards in our league this season. His aerial ability will add quality to our line-out, and although he is most comfortable at blindside flanker, he has played very well at second row for England Counties recently.

And Nile himself commented early on that he had:

I’ve played quite a bit of rugby in the back row, I enjoy it and I suppose it does give you a bit more freedom than in the second row, but at the end of the day it’s what’s best to get the team going forward and you have to do the work in whatever position you are playing

It would be interesting to ask RW whether it was originally his intention to play Dacres at 6, or indeed if he still sees it as a possibility for the future. Nile as been so dominant at 4 it would seem unlikely at the moment, especially with Latu Makaafi playing so well and with Brett Daynes such an accomplished player to have as understudy.

However, outside of the set pieces, Dacres at times plays like a flanker and he seems to like nothing better than to attack the opposition with the ball. He’s quick, too, and he makes good metres  with his rampaging runs which are a feature of his game – as we saw in the Moseley game when his run following the Makaafi break led to a Scott Tolmie try.

How many times this season have we seen examples of this:

or this:

or this:


which on occasions have led to this:

He complements George Oram so well in many respects, especially in the loose. George is direct, preferring the pick up and go and very much taking the direct route whilst Nile is more inclined to go a little more cross-country, using his pace to link up with players around him and playing more as an additional back row. Nile is a strong runner and has more staying power over distance perhaps than George which makes him extremely useful given he is such a skilled 4 as well.

Whilst he might be more noticeable in attack, Nile also puts in a hell of a shift defensively, a feature of all the forwards under Luke Narraway, Louis Deacon and Nick Walshe this season. Much of what he does tends to go unnoticed, and whilst he might not have the strength of say Tom Poole in the tackle, he puts in some big hits,

Nile has settled well into life at Cov and he’s one of the many players whom we need to be retaining next season, whether we go up or not.  The fact that he left second-placed Plymouth last season to join Coventry suggests that he is ambitious and he himself has said that he would like the chance to play in the Championship again:

I’d definitely like to be back playing there and I’ll just push as hard as I can and keep pushing myself.

I think every player has aspirations to move up, and although you can’t predict the future, of course I have ambitions to play in the Premiership – I’ve just got to keep doing my best, pushing myself, and just keep going

RW must have persuaded him that his chances of that (the Championship!) over the next couple of seasons are better with Coventry than with Plymouth and with Coventry flying high at the top of the league and Plymouth trailing some 16 points behind in 3rd place half way through the season, well it would appear that Nile made the right decision.

Here’s hoping that proves to be the vase in April.

 

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Current standings – Coventry Rugby Club MVP poll 2017:

Day 1 – Anthony Mototo (12th)

Day 2 – Phil Boulton (11th)

Day 3 – Heath Stevens (10th)

Day 4 – George Oram (9th)

Day 5 – Sam Tuitupou (8th)

Day 6 – Latu Makaafi (7th)

Day 7 – Nile Dacres (6th)

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Just as a footnote, whilst digging up a bit of background info for today’s post, I came across the link below that details the award of a scholarship to play in New Zealand to a young 18-year-old no 8 from Aylesford Bulls.

His name?

George Oram.

Might be a little too late to have your say though!

Well worth a read nevertheless…

NZ Scholarship for George Oram

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I also came across a picture of a young Latu without the hair…you’d hardly recognise him!

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