Coventry director of rugby Rowland Winter says his squad are straining at the leash ahead of Doncaster’s visit to the Butts Park Arena for Saturday’s round 11 Greene King IPA Championship clash.
The blue-and-whites finished 2018 on an upbeat note by qualifying for the last eight of the Championship Cup then battling to a hard-earned league draw at Nottingham.
And according to their boss, a subsequent two-week break over the festive period has further increased the sense of excitement and anticipation in the Cov camp.
“You can tell there is a real buzz around at the moment and everyone is really looking forward to getting back on the pitch for the first game of 2019,” he said.
“The boys worked incredibly hard and went 18 weeks between mid-August and Christmas without any time off, so their rest was well earned.
“We then got back into training straight after New Year and have spent two weeks ensuring we are fully prepared for the Doncaster game on Saturday. The build-up has gone really well, the players are all very excited and have looked good.”
Resources were stretched in a number of areas prior to the Christmas break. However, with a number of players now restored to fitness Cov’s coaching group face some tight selection calls against visitors who currently lie two positions and six points behind their seventh-placed hosts.
“The break has served us very well from an injury perspective as several niggles have cleared up which leaves us in as good a position as we’ve seen for quite a long time,” Winter confirmed.
“Andy Bulumakau and Heath Stevens are both fit and have participated fully in training this week.
“Sam Tuitupou’s hamstring is still not quite right, Jack Preece is a couple of weeks away and Alex Woolford’s toe has still not fully recovered, but other than that we will only be without those guys with longer-term injuries.
“We’ll have some difficult choices to make, and no doubt won’t keep everyone happy across the squad.”
Having lost to the Knights by a point in the opening round of Championship Cup action at Castle Park in November, Cov came from behind to register a bonus-point success in the return clash at the Butts five weeks ago.
And according to their boss, these games provided plenty of insight into the visitors’ likely approach to a match which marks the midpoint of the league campaign.
“We’ve played Doncaster twice already, and having them in the cup period was helpful from the point of view of getting to know them,” Winter said.
“Their director of rugby Clive Griffiths is pretty no-nonsense in his approach to rugby and they have some big forwards like Rory Pitman, Josh Tyrell and Ollie Stedman who fit well with that.
“They also have vast experience in their pack from people like Colin Quigley, Ben Hunter and Matt Challinor who are stacked with hundreds of Championship games under their belts. We know they will come around the corner and carry hard and it is up to us to stop that.
“We will have one of the strongest 22-man squads we have named for a long time and I am excited to see them run out at home and take them on in front of a packed Butts Park. We have beaten them once at home this season, and I am hoping we can do it again.”
Advanced tickets for the IPA Greene King Championship clash with Doncaster, preferentially priced at £18 (seated), £15 (standing) and £2 (ages three to 16) are available before 4pm on Friday from the Butts Park Arena ticket office on 02476 231001.
Entry without an advanced ticket is also available on the gate.