Jersey Reds on Saturday…Sammy Tuitupou…The Championship – a League of Nations

A Mashed potato started long time ago
With a guy named Sloppy Joe
You’ll find this dance is so cool to do
Come on baby, gonna teach it to you

Mashed potato, feel it in your feet now
Mashed potato, come on get the beat now
Baby, come on honey, come on baby, ya, ya, ya, ya

Mashed Potato Time – The Ronettes

So, then, it all kicks off on Saturday.

Away against Jersey.

Not the easiest of games to start your Championship 2019/20 campaign.  Given the choice, I imagine Cov would have opted for a home game, played in front of a large BPA crowd, to settle the nerves a bit.

Even in the first season back in the Championship, the Butts proved a difficult place for opposition sides and an opening fixture at home  against any of the teams other than perhaps Ealing or Newcastle might have suited us better than an away trip to Jersey.

I suspect there would be a strong case, too, to be made for bringing both of the Championship favourites to Cov early doors as well. Catch ’em cold before they hit their stride when they’re still short of competitive match practice. Last week’s encounter with Ealing showed how Cov, well below full strength, are more than capable of upsetting the odds even against the top two sides in this division.

All academic, of course, because Cov have to go to Jersey.

4th in my list of toughest places to play away from home in this league – behind Newcastle, Ealing and Cornish Pirates.

Despite Cov’s win over there in April, only the second on Cov’s travels last season, the other being against Doncaster Knights the weekend before, few outside of Coventry see us as favourites to take the points, with almost 4 times the predictions on rolling-maul.com going Jersey’s way (at the time of writing this post).

Many are suggesting it will be a close game, but home advantage seems to be the decisive factor in making a judgement, although I do particularly like one poster’s comment:

Jersey 2 v Coventry 5 – Are Cov the real deal this year? A win here would say so. MOTD

Not yet the real deal, or even close to it, not if we believe that Cov will be pushing for a place in the Premiership before too long.

But an improved side from last season? Then definitely.

Back in April, Jersey were 5/1 on with the bookmakers to beat Cov.

I can’t see that being the case this time around, although favourites they will surely be.

The expectations of those supporters travelling to Jersey this weekend are going to be high. Many will have seen Cov do a job on Jersey in the last encounter between these two sides and will be well aware that if Cov exhibit the same sort of parsimony against the home side as they did against Ealing, then Jersey will struggle to score points. And with Coventry’s desire this season to be very much on the front foot, playing quick, expansive rugby, Jersey might well have to get a fair few points on the board if they are to beat us.

A defensive display similar to that which we saw last Friday isn’t something supporters can expect, as yet, week in week out.

That sort of consistency will take a while yet to achieve, but I’m really excited to see if Cov can carry that same sort of intensity, those same levels of concentration they showed after the opening 10 minutes of the Ealing game, into Saturday’s game.

I’m ever the optimist when it comes to Cov, but this time around that optimism is, I reckon, fully justified…

It will be close and Jersey are renowned for their big packs and strong scrummaging, but even so.

Bedford and Jersey finished third and fourth last season. As of now, I’d put us in the second of three tiers of clubs that make up the Championship, together with Jersey, Bedford, Pirates and possibly Nottingham. The top tier clubs would be Ealing and Newcastle and the third tier would comprise Yorkshire Carnegie, London Scottish, Doncaster Knights, London Scottish, Hartpury and Ampthill.

Personal opinion obviously, but before the season starts I think that’s how I would see it.

A big step up for Cov then and a chance this season to be one of the top two clubs behind Ealing and Newcastle and lay a marker for the next season and beyond. I genuinely believe that Cov will come away with the win on Saturday.

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Jersey’s results so far.

Jersey’s results leading into this weekend’s game haven’t been too dissimilar to those of Cov. Their stand-out result was the win against Russia which was a hugely impressive performance, but other than that there’s not too much to be worried about. A decent result at home to Newcastle, although Newcastle hadn’t had a pre-season as I recall…?

A good marker then.

There looks to be another big contingent of Cov fans making their way over to Jersey, with several having already got there, understandably choosing to make a break of it and enjoy the Channel Island hospitality. They will make their voices heard for sure…

…I’m really looking forward to seeing how Cov’s respond.

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I was searching YouTube to find some highlights of the Championship game April to add to the post when I came across the following.

The footage is of Sam Tuitupou and is taken from the Nighthawk’s/Development game against Jersey Athletic which preceded the Championship fixture in April, Sadly, it was Sam’s last competitive game in a Coventry shirt.

Given it’s an away game, I presume the clip comes from a Jersey recording, even though it features Sam T.

The whole clip, which only lasts 1:40, is in slow motion and features some of the plays Sam was involved in during the game.

It opens with a classic Tuitupou bone-crunching tackle on the Jersey full back – you can hear the crowd’s response. I can still remember that hit and the chuckles from supporters around me once we saw their 15 get to his feet. It was pretty soon after the kick off and very much one of those ‘welcome to the game’ tackles that so typified Sam’s play in the couple of seasons he was with us.

Things move on at a pace these days but Tuitupou is still a very popular figure at Cov and will be for some time. I’ve no idea how Rowland Winter persuaded Sam to come to Cov, but he won’t have made many better signings in his time either at Cambridge or Coventry. Sam’s presence was key in that promotion winning side of 2018 and clearly just listening to the stories about him, he was a real legend of the game.

It was a privilege to watch him.

It’s too late now (should have suggested it earlier), but the 2019/20 season’s highlights, including  the Nighthawk’s games and some of the more amusing incidents from the training ground, packaged into a DVD, would have made an excellent Crimbo present.

I guess it would take a bit of editing but if it were to be done on a game-by-game basis it would be too difficult – an excellent project this season for an intern in readiness for Christmas 2020 perhaps?

At £10 a pop, I reckon that could bring in some useful additional revenue…?

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Finally, for no other reason than it just surprised me a little, I thought I’d include  Coventry’s squad list, as taken from Wikipedia.
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I well remember a time, and not too long ago at that, when Cov had a plethora of overseas players in the squad.

I recall sitting with Sam and working out which players counted as ‘overseas’ and what the limits were and who would have to be left out in our National One Cov dream team.

I’ve read a couple of articles recently, one in The Rugby Paper, that described the Championship as ‘the League of nations’, full of overseas players (especially south sea islanders), who have come to England to play in the Championship; not quite good enough for Premiership rugby but certainly able to pick up a decent salary playing second tier English rugby…

I do get the argument about players coming in and preventing homegrown talent from breaking into the Championship. That said,  I’m not altogether sure the data supports this view at all. And, of course, if you look at the work the likes of Sammy T did, and still does, with talented local youngsters then there ceases to be an argument at all.

…similar in undertone to the comments about David Halaifonua that have understandably upset one or two supporters on the Messageboard in recent days.

Now I know Wikipedia isn’t the font of all knowledge, especially things rugby related, but given the squad list looks pretty accurate to me (although I haven’t checked it against the official one on the website), using Wikipedia I did a quick count of the overseas players listed as included in 10 of the other 11 Championship squads; I didn’t even look at Yorkshire Carnegie I’m afraid.

It was quite enlightening:

Club                                No of Overseas Players
Jersey Reds                  12
Newcastle Falcons    11
Cornish Pirates           9
Ealing Trailfinders    8
Nottingham                  4
Hartpury                        4
London Scottish         4
Ampthill                        3
Bedford Blues              3
Doncaster Knights     1

Had someone asked me to put the clubs in order of those having the most overseas players, I wouldn’t have been close if I’m honest.

Ampthill with just three (and only two Tongans), give over…

But times they are a-changing and perhaps international overseas players are now attracting the type of salaries that Championship sides just can’t afford.

Here’s Jersey’s squad list for no other reason than they top the list and are our hosts on Saturday:
217.jpgI don’t want to read to much into it – it could be it’s just an indication of the relative spending power of each club, or maybe a reflection of their rugby principles.

It is, perhaps, a talking point though…

…no more than that.

 

 

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Apologies to any supporters of Jersey Reds –  I was really struggling for an appropriate song to accompany the post and, well, Jersey Reds being potatoes and as a Cov supporter, me hoping we’ll win convincingly on the day…

well…mashed potatoes seemed as good a choice as any.

As it is, this is my 5th visit to the island and I’m hoping for a few more yet.

Provided I can get through passport control.

Anyone care for a dance…?

and just because it remains one of the funniest adverts ever:

Author: Tim

2 thoughts on “Jersey Reds on Saturday…Sammy Tuitupou…The Championship – a League of Nations

  1. The message board topic about Halaifonua had absolutely nothing to do with nationality, it was about Cov being dismissed as a club from the lower leagues by one of the itv commentators. It’s pretty dumb to suggest this had anything to do with xenophobia.

    1. Hi Metz…yep, ill thought out comment…not what I meant. Have removed it. Thanks for the feedback…much appreciated.

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