PROP forward Jimmy Litchfield is relishing his fresh start at Coventry as part of a pack that has been largely dominant in the scrum all season.
The 25-year-old joined Cov in the summer after successive seasons at a higher level with London Welsh and London Scottish, but has no regrets at making the move which he believes can only take his career forward with the quality of the coaching and the experience of the players around him in the front row.
“I think I did have a bit of a point to prove after the last two years,” said Burton-born Litchfield. ” You always have your critics, but I think it was more a case of having a point to prove to myself than to anyone else.
“London Welsh had a terrible season while I was there and I didn’t really get a look in, and although I really enjoyed it at London Scottish and I played quite a lot, in the end it wasn’t meant to be.
“But I feel right at home at Cov, it’s like a new start and I’m really happy with the way things are going.
“I’ve learnt a lot from working with Boris Stankovich, he’s got such a wealth of knowledge to give you and because he’s played under the new Laws, he knows what it’s like. He knows the pressure you are under and how scrummaging differs from under the old Laws, which is a massive thing.
“Every team in National One has felt the brute force of our scrum against them, all of us have bought into what Boris says and are on the same page and want the same result – we’re very proud of our scrum now and what we’ve got in there.
“Boris has also done a great job with our maul, putting it in the right areas and knowing where to drive and how to make it effective, being a bit more smarter about it rather than just going head-to-head with someone and just trying to use our bulk and our weight.
“That paid off massively at Macclesfield last weekend, young Jack Willis went over from a 40-metre drive and you can’t really complain about that, can you?”
Pitch conditions and the weather at Macclesfield gave Cov their first real taste of winter and led to a few changes to their strategy in the scrum.
“It’s good to have games like that, it shows the character in the team and that we have got it in the locker when we need it,” said Litchfield.
“The mud affected things massively. For one, you can’t go low and it will show you up if you haven’t got good technique. You have to bring it a bit higher, and then it becomes an eight-man effort instead of having the emphasis on the front row.
“The lower you go, the more pressure you put through your feet so you have to keep it a little bit higher, and In some ways it evens it up for the other team so Macclesfield would probably have quite liked it, but we had the nudge on tem eventually.
“To win the way we did shows where we’ve come from and where we are now.”
Litchfield’s path to Cov came through his agent, who was also representing Stankovich.
“It was towards the end of last season , there was nothing official on the table for me at the time, and I think when Boris and Rowland Winter had a look at me they both appreciated what they saw and that they had something to work with, and given the right coaching it could all come right.
“When I sat down with Rowland he sold it to me very well. He said what they wanted to do, where they wanted to go and how they wanted to do it, and I liked what it was all about.
“Cov have got a massive history, I already knew Will Maisey quite well and I’m really good mates with Sam Smith, so it wasn’t a difficult decision to come.”
Litchfield’s friendship with Smith goes back to when they played against each other for, respectively, Stafford and Burton as ten-year-olds, and they went to Hartpury College at the same time in 2008.
Litchfield spent six years in Gloucestershire at Hartpury, where he was in the side that won promotion from National Two and the BUCS championship, and at university where he had A League and United experience with Gloucester which led to his move to London Welsh.
“I just want to keep improving and my main focus really is the present, just building on what we’ve got at Coventry, ” he said. “We’ve got a lot of talent and it’s showing through now the early teething problems we had seem to have subsided.
“My main aim is to get promoted with Cov, it would be a massive thing for us as a squad and great for the club. We’re building, and something is going to happen.
“Hartpury look as if they have won the league, but we owe it to ourselves to push for that second spot and keep building for next season.
“The rotation system we operate in the front row is quite nice. You see it all the time that lads who are playing every minute of every week eventually burn out, and the rotation just keeps everyone fresh and pushing to get that starting spot for the big games like Moseley before Christmas – that was a fantastic win, it meant a lot to us, and the fans were outstanding , just so loud, and got us over the line.
“We have two big games coming up now against Blackheath and Hartpury. We owe Blackheath one for sure, we just weren’t on the money when we went down there, and we were really annoyed to lose the home game against Hartpury, so if we can put those defeats right it will set us up well.”