SECOND row forward Tom Poole says he has unfinished business at Coventry as he looks ahead to his sixth season at Butts Park.
The 28-year-old reached the milestone of 100 appearances for Cov last October, but – included this week in the latest batch of retained players – insists he still has targets to reach and, for him, leaving was never really an option.
“I’ve had offers from elsewhere, but it just made the most sense to me to stay somewhere I’ve put so much into and hopefully see the project through to where I want it to go to,” said Poole.
“I don’t like to use clichés, but this was always going to be a bit of a transition period for a new side, and for the lads that were stopping after last season it’s perhaps fair to say that we were all a little sceptical as to where it was all going to go.
“But everybody has bought into what’s being done, and everybody has brought something with them in some shape or form, from the development lads up to the top players.
“We’d all like to get the job done, so we have to keep upping our game, and the quality of the guys coming in for next year is only going to help us take the next step up and get closer to where we want to be.
“There’s a lot of strength in depth in that team now and I think everyone is excited to see where we could possibly go.
“Looking back on past seasons, and when we had that unbeaten run of 18 games, we perhaps got carried away. Things don’t always go the way you want, that’s life, and you’ve got to be prepared for every eventuality.
“But as we are now there’s a lot of promise there, it’s exciting for everyone, and that’s why you want to be on board.”
If Poole did have any doubts about the future, they were removed by the arrival of former England international Louis Deacon who was announced this week as Cov’s new line-out coach.
“That was also a big reason for wanting to stay,” he said. “This is a very tough league to get out of, no-one can dispute that, but if you look at the quality of the coaches we’ve got now we are in a good position to push on.
“The fact that Rowland Winter has been able to get Louis to come in is going to be a massive help, not only for myself but for all the second rows, and that’s exciting for the whole club in general.
“With the core of the squad retained we have a real foundation there, and with the quality of the lads coming in and the coaching team we have, we can be looking to keep improving and to get back in the Championship which is the ultimate for everybody, I think.
“If there was any element of doubt or any scepticism, I don’t think everybody would be as keen to stick around or put their hands up to be in that team
“If you look back to the Ampthill game the other weekend it was probably a high point of our season. It was not a complete performance, it’s never as complete as you would like it to be – I’m a perfectionist and I don’t think I’m anywhere near where I want to be yet.
“But it was a good game for the team as a whole and, along with the Moseley game at home, showed what we can really do.
“You’ve only got to look at those games to think what it can be with the addition of a couple of key players and how we can add to our set plays with Louis coming in.
”There’s a lot going on behind the scenes which the supporters are not necessarily aware of, but as players we are well looked after and we’ve got a really good club here.”
Poole missed the first three games of the season with a hamstring problem and had to wait for an extended run in the side.
“I didn’t have the start to the season I would have wanted,” he said. “It was the first time in a long time I can remember that I picked up a bit of an injury and I didn’t quite hit the ground running.
“But I think that going away and almost having a pre-season again gave me that edge back, and being able to string a few games together I’ve got some continuity and I’m quite pleased with my performances recently.
“If you’d said to me when I first joined Coventry you’re going to get 100 caps, it’s not necessarily something you would think about.
“I go out there to play my game each week the best I can, concentrate on working hard at training and if you get selected for the next game, then that’s a bonus in itself.
“You’ve got to treat every game almost as if it’s a trial, but if I can keep going and get to 150 games it would be nice and I would feel that I’ve achieved something then.
“If I can help get the club promoted, then anything else would be a bonus in terms of myself.”
One unwelcome statistic for Poole is his place at the top Coventry’s table of yellow cards this season – another one coming his way in the win at Cambridge last week when Cov were defending close to their line.
“”I think at the start of my career, in my junior rugby days and when I first came to Coventry, I would probably have put that down to indiscipline.
“I know that it might appear that way to people and how frustrating it is for the supporters, but at the end of the day, in my head I’m playing my game.
“I play on the edge and I’m not going to change that.
“If the cards were for foul play or striking people, then I’d put my hands up, but with the type of game I play in some situations it’s a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and team offences.
“I think last week I was a bit unlucky – I had my hands up, I was trying to roll away and was looking the referee n the eye, but when you’ve got 20 stones of prop right on top of you it makes things a little bit difficult. There wasn’t much else I could do.
“I think it’s down to interpretation more than anything.”
And Poole did make amends for his ten-minute spell in the sin bin, spotting a gap in the Cambridge cover and breaking 30 metres to send in Max Trimble for the fifth try early in the second half which all but sealed the win.
“I think it was all credit to Sam Grasso really – I saw the gap at the breakdown and he probably would have wanted to see one of the wingers outside him, but he gave me a quality ball.
“I didn’t quite have it in the tank to get to the line myself, but it was good to see Max on the outside and it was a nice run in.”