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by John Butler

ONE of rugby’s longest local club rivalries, certainly in the Midlands, is renewed this Saturday when Coventry make the short trip over to South Birmingham, for the return league derby with Birmingham Moseley.

Known simply for many decades as ‘Cov v Mose’, the rivalry certainly dates back into the late 1800s with many former family members and friends relating stories to current Coventry fans of deeds past.

Tales for example of when both sides, playing at the former Butts, were forced to change and then travel on foot both ways from a former public house in Broadgate. It was around that time that, following a particularly interesting and feisty encounter at the Butts, rivalry ceased for some years after intervention from the RFU!

Early encounters were in the long-since defunct Midland Counties Cup and then continued as club games before the introduction of merit tables, later cup games, and then of course, league rugby from 1987/88 as we know it now.

Boxing Day meetings, the loss of them and the crowds those meetings brought in to both Coundon Road and The Reddings, have been much missed in both camps. With rivalries now renewed following Moseley’s relegation from the Championship two years ago and with the fixture makers encouraging derbies around Christmas time, the next best alternative to Boxing Day has returned. At least for this season!

Moseley, who announced pre- season a reduced playing budget, have only enjoyed a moderate time to date. Their record shows seven wins and six defeats, with a home draw against Ampthill & District on the opening day of the season. Their away record of four wins is slightly better than that at home, where three victories have been recorded against Hull Ionians, Loughborough Students &and, lastly, Caldy on November 25. Moseley’s last home match against Plymouth Albion fell foul of the snow. Currently eighth in National League One, last season saw them finish in fifth spot.

Cov have only played a handful of times at Billesley Common, where they have yet to win, following Moseley’s moves from The Reddings and then the University of Birmingham. They will be more than aware that their hosts will still be smarting after their 50-11, eight-try mauling in the earlier fixture.

With fixtures over recent seasons being rather fragmented, due to differing league status, Cov are in fact seeking their first win on Moseley soil since season 2002/03, when the two clubs met at the University. After that season, there was then a three-year break in fixtures with another seven-year break from 2009/10 after Cov’s relegation.

Last season’s match one recalls was a close one before Moseley edged matters 19-14.

Player movements between the two clubs has tended to occur pretty regularly. Of the present Coventry squad Jack Preece, Alex Grove, George Oram and Dave Brazier all made the move to Butts Park last summer. Conversely, centre Callum MacBurnie moved back to his former club, but has featured only briefly for them this season and is currently dual registered at Broadstreet. Another back, Sam Smith, together with Sam Hollingsworth, formerly Cov Development and Broadstreet, also made the move.

Former hooker Richard Protherough took over as director of rugby in the close season from the long serving Kevin Maggs. Cov supporters will recall Proth played for both clubs in his time during the 90s and early 2000s.

Looking at the reminder of Moseley’s squad, sSkipper this season is back row forward/lock Buster Lawrence who, significantly, was absent in his side’s 30-26 defeat at Rosslyn Park last week.

Another Coventry link is through recently-recruited Brendan Snyman, the South African lock having left Butts Park last season in disappointing circumstances. Also at lock is Aaron Crofts, son of former Coventry forward, Lee. On the replacements bench last week were Jacques Le Roux and the previously mentioned Hollingsworth.

Army fly-half James Dixon is Moseley’s current top points scorer with 57, while back row forward Chris Brightwell heads the try scorers with six.

One factor Cov’s squad can be absolutely certain of on Saturday is another magnificent away following with the Supporters’ Club laying on several coaches to supplement those travelling privately. Moseley’s biggest recorded gate this season, 861, will surely be fully tested.

From a Coventry perspective, there was obvious disappointment at the postponement of last week’s match at Darlington Mowden Park which means the squad travel to Billesley Common on the back of the superb 14 match winning run, 22 when taking in the end of last season.

Fly-half Will Maisey will be looking to add to his impressive 152 points in the 14 matches played, with the squad overall having run in 88 tries to date as well.

With the points cushion at the top of the division staying at 13, even though Saturday’s north-east trip was postponed, Cov will also be looking to add to those impressive statistics whilst also inflicting a season’s league double on their hosts.