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by John Butler

A FULL month will have passed since Coventry Rugby’s last game at Butts Park Arena when Rosslyn Park come to the Butts Park Arena on Saturday, finally giving supporters an opportunity to applaud the National League One champions on home soil.

The visitors have never actually played at Rosslyn Park. The club was formed five years after Cov in 1879 by a group of cricketers who, basically, wanted to keep together during the winter months. Cricket was being played in the grounds of Rosslyn House, and with the name ‘Rosslyn’ already associated with the smaller ball game, it was not unnatural for the link to be made to the new rugby club.

Park’s facilities at The Rock, in Roehampton, have long been linked with the staging of the Public School Sevens. Added to that now, the Rosslyn Park Floodlit Sevens has become a major event, being known apparently as the capital’s greatest rugby party!

This season has been a little more of a struggle for Rosslyn Park than in previous recent years. They retained some 38 players from last season, when they finished sixth in National League One, and are currently lying 11th having won nine, drawn two and lost fourteen of their matches.

Although it was considered that this year’s squad was largely going to be a fairly young one, there are a number of names pretty familiar to us from previous visits. Hugo Ellis, a thorn in Cov’s side more than once in the back row of the scrum, was a try scorer in the earlier meeting at Roehampton. Fly-half Harry Leonard is his club’s top points scorer to date, having just passed 150 for the season, while centre Andrew Henderson has run in ten tries with full-back Henry Robinson on eight. Centre Oli Grove s the brother of Cov’s Alex.

Park have won just twice on their travels so far, at Old Albanian on the opening day of the season and, more recently, at Bishop’s Stortford on January 13.

Checking back, the first game between the two clubs appears to have been in October 1965 with Cov winning 17-10 at Coundon Road. There followed a cup semi-final in 1973/74, again here in the Midlands, where Cov won before beating London Scottish in the final, which still can be seen on film in faded black and white. It was 1976/77 before club games between us became anything like a regular feature.

Looking solely at league meetings, there have been 20 so far. Park lead 12-7 in wins with one match drawn. Cov’s 43-13 success at The Rock back in December is our biggest winning margin.