Day 4 of the Cov Blog’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) 2019 poll results.
And this time it’s 9th place that’s up for grabs.
And today you voted for:
Luke Wallace’s arrival at the BPA came as something of a surprise to most supporters.
One of 16 players to be released by Harlequins back in May, he had originally been linked to Bristol Bears by Rugby Pass as long ago as last January.
However, once again, Rowland Winter was able to persuade another highly talented Premiership player that his future lay with Coventry, not elsewhere in the top tier. At least for this season, anyway.
No only does RW have a vision, he also has the ability to convey it in an extremely articulate manner. And whilst I’m sure other Championship sides will have been making enquiries about Luke’s availability, none will have been able to sell the dream quite as well. For all RW’s other strengths, and they are many, his ability to speak so eloquently and persuasively is a huge bonus and one that seldom gets the credit it deserves.
Luke Wallace had only ever been at Harlequins so for the 28 year old, leaving The Stoop must have been a huge wrench and the drop down to the IPA Greene King Championship a decision that must have been amongst the hardest in his professional career. But leave he did and now at Cov he is part of a back row that is bristling with ability. It’s been a long time since the coaches have had the luxury of knowing they have several permutations from which to choose.
How Phil Maynard must have wanted something similar back in Sept 2015! Remember Daniel Carpo coming in after the World Cup after a string of injuries in the back row? Cov never recovered from the poor start in September and October which saw Morgan take over from PM and Rowland Winter announced as new Head Coach as early as January 2016.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Announcing LW’s imminent arrival at Cov, Rowland Winter once again reinforced just how important depth to the squad is:
‘Luke is going to add significant experience to the team and we are excited to get him on board…We have lots of quality in the back row and the competition for places will be fierce, which is exactly what we need in order to drive our way up the league table.’
And quality is one thing that Wallace brings with him in abundance.
Back in 2011/12, the year Harlequins won the Premiership, in his debut season Wallace caught the eye and his performances over the season saw him short-listed both for the LV= Breakthrough Player and Land Rover Discovery of the Season awards.
And whilst Wallace for a time was talked about as a possible addition to the England squad, he was never capped although he did represent England against the Barbarians in 2014.
The emergence of Alex Dombrandt and Chris Robshaw’s return from injury meant that Luke W struggled to get back into the side and in the end Harlequins took the decision not to renew his contract for this season. He joined Cov having already had 169 club appearances for Quins. Their loss…
And whilst much as been said already this season about the leadership qualities of Ryan Burrows, it’s worth noting that Luke Wallace also captained Harlequins to an ‘A’ League and LV Cup double in 2013, so by the look of it he is another player who brings leadership to the team.
The coaches have talked about the absence of leaders on the pitch in previous seasons,, so players like Luke Wallace are exactly what we need in those difficult games where decisions on the pitch can make all the difference.
Wallace has played in all 7 Championship games so far, starting in 6 of them…
…and as the Player Ratings (above) from The Rugby Paper show, his form has been consistent. He’s one of those players who gets through a lot of work, most of it unnoticed, especially at the breakdown where he is in the Jack Preece mould, a turnover specialist who can win you quality ball from defensive positions.
Players like Burrows and Ram will be far more noticeable given their tendency to make the metres, but Wallace is going to be the provider at times and he’ll put in as good as a defensive shift as any. He looks to be a player’s player, the kind you want in your side when the hard graft needs to be done, but that said he’s also popular with supporters too and has already featured a couple of times in the Supporters’ Poll in this blog.
To be fair, anyone who wears his hair as Luke does is going to be popular.
Whilst we know Luke Wallace, together with Henry Purdy and Andy Forsyth, will be keen to get back into the Premiership (and still have time on their side to varying degrees), it is to be hoped that Rowland Winter and co can offer them the kind of incentives, and not just monetary ones, that will encourage them to stay on and get the job done here.
Playing regularly at Cov and building a side to challenge for promotion in a couple of seasons might be more appealing than playing A League rugby or getting 20 minutes a week off the bench, however better the pay is, in the Premiership.
Further recruitment of the kind we’ve seen this season will make us a very, very, competitive side provided we can keep hold of the players like Wallace. And even though the side relegated from the Premiership is always going to have a huge advantage the rest of the league, if we keep on progressing as we are, in a couple of seasons time, well who knows?
The fact that Wallace chose Cov over other clubs is a real positive. At 29, a move back into the Premiership is by no means guaranteed, and a regular place in the team even less so. Building a squad capable of promotion is a challenge that might appeal, especially when playing week in, week out, in front of crowds so appreciative as those as Cov.
It’s the 5th Day of Christmas tomorrow…
Here’s how it’s gone so far:
Day 4 – Luke Wallace
Day 3 – Henry Purdy
Day 2 – Adam Peters
Day 1 – Senitiki Nayalo