Coventry Rugby may may be forced to field an entirely changed back row when they make the return pool one Championship Cup trip to Nottingham on Friday (7.45pm kick off).
Jack Preece completed the full 80-minutes at openside during Cov’s 45-35 round three success over the East Midlanders at the Butts on Saturday, while No.8 Ben Adams and blindside James Voss gave way in the second half to Ben Nutley and Jack Ram.
However, director of rugby Rowland Winter believes only the on-loan Leicester No.6 has more than a slim chance of being part of the blue-and-whites’ first trip to Nottingham since the 2009/10 season.
“Vossy has been struggling from game to game with a neck and shoulder problem, and it doesn’t seem to be improving,” Winter said.
“Jack is awaiting the results of a scan on his knee and while Ben’s twisted ankle is not as bad as we first feared, he will still probably miss one or two games. Adam Peters is not yet fully fit from the hamstring strain suffered at Doncaster.”
In addition to Nutley and Ram, Coventry’s coaching group will have Dan Faleafa available again following his autumn international stint with Tonga, while Latu Makaafi could come into the selection equation.
In front of them, lock Alex Woolford also faces a race against time to overcome the toe problem which kept him off the field last Saturday.
And while James Gibbons’ return to full fitness allows Cov to select from a full compliment of loose head props, Winter revealed promising tight head Luc Jeannot will be a long-term absentee.
“Luc needs surgery on his shoulder which will happen shortly and he is likely to be out for the rest of the season,” Winter said. “We are currently looking at bringing in a tight head who should be with us shortly.”
Less is expected to change behind the scrum where the return to fitness of experienced centres Andy Bulumakau and Sam Tuitupou gives Cov a few midfield options in the continued absence of Heath Stevens (ankle).
Rob Knox is forced to sit Friday’s game out since he will not have completed the mandatory seven-day HIA protocol period, while Junior Bulumakau hopes to overcome a wrist problem in time to play.
Given the weather forecast, Winter anticipates this week’s contest may be very different to the last two cup weekends which have seen 23 tries scored across Cov’s two ties.
He also confirmed that the club’s coaching and playing contingent have shifted their focus as a result of the nine tries conceded to Yorkshire Carnegie and Nottingham.
“After the Carnegie league game a few weeks ago we made a few changes to our attack and that’s resulted in 17 tries in the last three games where we have been more free-flowing,” he said.
“We have some talented outside backs, who will score tries if they are given a decent supply of ball and some space.
“During the same period our defence has been found wanting, and we now need to bring that up to the same standard as our attack.
“The big thing we focus on is overall performance. While the attack box is ticked and our breakdown was also much better last week, some questions remain about our setpiece and defence is now something for us to really focus on.”
Advance match tickets are now available to purchase from the club office for our last home game in 2019 against Doncaster Knights on Saturday December 8.
The Rooters will be the post-match entertainment in the Jon Sharp bar while the club shop will also be open for Christmas shoppers.