Please see below which the Supporters’ Club received from Zoe’s Place regarding the Fan’s Day Out, an event we proudly supported. We will post the photographs from the event onto our Twitter Account https://twitter.com/RugbyCoventry as and when they are made available to us.
If you would still like to make a donation please contact the Supporters’ Club via E-Mail to CRSC1874@gmail.com
Thank you for supporting Zoë’s Place & Coventry Rugby
Thank you to everyone who took part on Saturday, despite the lower than anticipated numbers, the atmosphere was jovial and well over £4000 was raised for Zoe’s Place – this is a fantastic result and we couldn’t be prouder of you.
We hope you enjoyed both the walk and a thrilling game of rugby, and don’t forget to post your JustGiving link one last time with a photo of you taking part on the day, people often make a final donation after they’ve seen how much effort you put in. We need to raise £1.2 million to run the hospice each year, and one hour of specialist nursing care costs £25. We wouldn’t be able to continue to support children with life threatening and life limiting illness without your support, and the money you’ve raised really does make a huge difference – thank you.
Please keep an eye on our facebook page, as we will post the photos from the day soon.
Thank you once again your support.
Schools and junior clubs like Barkers’ Butts once proved a conveyor belt for Coventry Rugby in the past. Mark Forster talks to Rob Knox, the lone Cov kid in today’s first team squad, about his journey from one Butts to another.
SOMETIMES the gods of rugby conspire to serve up a romantic chapter in this game of ours.
Because it surely can’t be coincidence that Rob Knox marked his 100th appearance in the blue and white of Coventry on one of the biggest days in recent club history.
The popular winger led the side out in front of a record National League One crowd on the last day of the 2017/8 season, the day when Coventry would be crowned champions.
And scored a memorable try to help sign off a rare promotion year in style.
Not bad for a lad from Coundon who once had dreams of playing for the Sky Blues.
“All through primary school I was football mad. I played football up until about 14 or 15,” he says. “I was part of the Coventry City academy for seven or eight years, but I got to the point where I wanted to play with my friends and they were all playing rugby.
I went along just to be with my friends.”
Today, he’s part of Coventry’s Championship team, eager to cement his place in the club’s pantheon of greats.
That he is the sole survivor of the pre-Rowland Winter era speaks volumes about his abilities, attitude and approach. He was moved from centre to the flank and has worked hard to ensure his natural footballing ability fits in with the team.
“I’m still getting started as a winger,” he says. “When Rowland came in and said for me to go on the wing, I had no idea about what it involved. I’m still learning, but it’s good that the coaches give the wingers licence to go out and get involved. I’m just happy that I’m still a part of the team.”
It is a measure of the man that he wants to be learning and improving, with nods to head coach Nick Walshe and strength and conditioning guru, Max Hartman.
But while he’s a product of the Coundon Court School production line that gave Coventry a former captain in Rob Hardwick and rugby the skills of Leon Lloyd and muscle of Jim Hamilton, he’s a pretty humble chap.
“At school I played scrum half. I pretty much played there all the way through, or at times as fly half. Then I went to Barkers’ Butts and was a 13 or 15,” he remembers. “I went from playing at Barkers’ to the Cov first team. My debut was against Cinderford in November and it was raining pretty hard. I had played for Barkers’ the week before and we were seven leagues apart.
I hadn’t taken my studs and on the coach all the guys were talking about how bad the pitch at Cinderford was. I had moulds and was worried how I’d get on with them. I scored a try in the corner and had a few nice touches. A few of my friends had come down and it was great, but I remember being so nervous.”
Barkers’ Butts, the club of former Coventry great John Gardiner, in recent memory helped shape the rugby talents of Hardwick, Lloyd and Hamilton, as well as another Cov favourite, Danny Grewcock, and a certain World Cup winning flanker in Neil Back.
Knox says that while he learned to love rugby at the club, it was his centre partnership with Callum McBurnie at Coventry that taught him most about the game.
“In my second season at Coventry, Morgs (former head coach Scott Morgan) asked me if I had ever played 12. Callum was great, especially for me, coming from Barkers’ at that age.
I’d never been taught how to play the game at that level. I was just chucked in at the deep end. Callum taught me a lot at centre. By the end of my second season, I felt pretty comfortable playing inside of him, knowing what he would do. I had never been taught how to defend properly. I knew how to tackle, but not the positioning.
Heath Stevens (first team captain) is one of the best defensive 13’s I’ve played with. Callum was, too. It was really enjoyable playing alongside him. It helped me lots.
I probably surprised myself in my first year at the club, then I had an injury which stopped my progress. I rushed back. For about a season and a half I was struggling. I scored a few tries against Henley Hawks and thought the problem was fixed, but it went again.
It held me back.”
He worked hard to get back to fitness, put a few pounds of muscle on, improved his pace and forced his way back into the starting line-up.
“Everything’s fine now and I’m probably enjoying being on the wing more than being in the centre,” he adds.
Surviving injury and the changes that came when Winter arrived is one thing, but leading your promotion-winning side out in front of 3,758 supporters, the majority baying for a Coventry win, must have been something special.
Not forgetting that he’s a Cov kid.
“To be honest, it was in the back of my mind that it was my 100th appearance, but I think that was a day more for the club, for the fans,’ he says. ‘I didn’t want to think about it, really. That day was something the fans had looked forward to for a good few years. I wanted to be a part of that.
I remember I got the ball and I think I went round James Tincknell, who’s ex Cov. I asked him after if he had let me score it.”
Lest we forget, that last home game of the 2017/8 season was a day when Coventry wanted to bow out with a win, but there were still a few nerves around, given the slip up to Darlington Mowden Park at the Butts Park Arena the week before.
Knox is a footballer with all the skills. Balance, power, pace, footwork, an eye for a gap and good hands.
But while he insists “I’m pretty lucky, getting the breaks I did” his record speaks otherwise.
Because he enjoys rugby and wants to be part of a successful Coventry era.
Last season he and fellow winger Max Trimble both notched up 17 tries for the season, joint third in the National League One try-scoring table. That equalled a 22-year record set by Andy Smallwood, but in a vintage year, the record was well and truly smashed by full back James Stokes with 21, while bulldozing hooker Scott Tolmie bagged 19.
And Coventry were well represented in the top seven, with former Cov man Sam Baker and Stokes tied at the top, and former Cov winger Dom Lespierre tying with Tolmie in joint second place.
Knox says: “I’m trying to get faster at the moment. I like going to the gym, which helps. The coaches know what the players’ strengths are. I like the competition. Guys like Scott Tolmie, who is really quick for a big lad and carries really well, or Stokesey and Max.
I love training and being round the lads.”
The arrival of former Gloucester powerhouse David Halaifonau and the Bulumakau brothers has strengthened the competition and Knox says he’s relishing the battle for a starting berth.
When I suggest he could become one of the select few who have scored a century of tries for Coventry he admits it would be nice.
With 57 five pointers in the bank he wants plenty more. “I always enjoy going round opponents. The Championship is a lot more physical and a lot quicker in terms of the ball being in play. We’ve only just started and there’s a lot more to come.
I would love to join the 100 club. Hopefully I’m around long enough to get enough opportunities to get there.
We get given situations in training and it comes back to expressing ourselves. If it’s on, have a go. We’re encouraged to play what’s in front of us. It’s a big factor in how we were so successful last year.
Everyone wants to play.”
Coventry has been blessed with great wingers. Of the 15 players who scored 100 or more tries for the club, nine plied their trade on the flanks.
Ricky Melville scored 281, Harold Greasley 181, David Duckham 147, Peter Jackson 127, Nobby Bolton 122, Rod Webb 118, Simon Maisey 109, Paul Knee 105 and Johnny Kaye 100.
In the professional era only Kurt Johnson has come close, falling agonisingly short on 99 for Cov, although he did notch up 10 with Orrell before heading to Coundon Road.
Could Knox be the first of the Butts Park Arena players to hit three figures?
If he does, he’ll pay tribute to others ahead of his own abilities.
“Nick Walshe is great to go and talk to if I need help with something. He is so calm, he gives us the licence to play.
I’ve always been a fan of watching the Fiji Sevens team because they always look like they are enjoying themselves and how they express themselves. That’s what we are encouraged to do. It’s great.”
Knox certainly seems to enjoy himself in a Coventry shirt, on or off the pitch. He’s proving an inspiration for future generations eager to wear the blue and white.
He’s been praised for his role in the community rugby department, one of a number of players going out into schools and working with youngsters at rugby clubs in the area.
“I’m at Sherbourne Fields School with Sam McNulty,” he says. “It’s my third year there. It’s great, really rewarding. It’s one of the happiest places I go to.”
Sherbourne Fields teaches children with a range of disabilities and medical complaints and has a long-standing relationship with Coventry Rugby.
Knox, McNulty and several of the teaching staff are looking to start wheelchair rugby at the school as part of a wider project in the city.
“It is so good to get the children involved,” says Knox. “On a personal level, it’s nice to get away if I’ve not had a good game or I’ve been injured. I’m learning so much.”
There’s that word again – learning.
Knox has long since graduated and has no regrets about following his passion for rugby.
“A couple of lads I played with at Coventry City Academy are top class footballers now, but I’m glad I chose rugby. I love playing for Coventry. That’s what I want to do.”
And score, of course.
Coventry Rugby have formed a partnership with Zoe’s Place (Baby Hospice) who are organising a 10k Charity Walk on October 13th starting and finishing at Coventry Rugby Club from 10am. The walk takes in the sights of Coventry and is open to all.
Zoe’s Place is a unique, fantastic charity who provide respite and palliative care for children and babies up to 5 years of age.
One of the Supporters’ Club Committee members, Phil Reynolds & his best friend ‘Oliver’, will be undertaking the walk to help raise money for the charity. If you would like to sponsor Phil you can do so via the following ‘Just Giving’ link below:-
Thank you, on behalf of Coventry Rugby Supporters’ Club.
Coventry Rugby boss Rowland Winter has added Tongan back five forward Daniel Faleafa and Canadian midfielder Rob Povey to his Greene King IPA Championship squad.
In addition, the blue-and-whites have announced that full back/fly half Dan Lewis and former Northampton lock Alex Woolford have joined the club ahead of this Saturday’s visit from unbeaten London Irish (3pm kick off).
The most recent of Faleafa’s 17 caps came against Fiji in June, when he made a try-scoring contribution to his country’s 27-19 win in Suva.
The Auckland-born 29-year-old was part of New Zealand’s 2009 Junior World Championship-winning squad, where he played alongside Aaron Cruden.
He played club rugby for Auckland, Northlands and Southern Districts before spending a season in Australia with Randwick. His last four seasons have been spent in France, in the colours of Albi then Colomiers.
Povey, 21, was born in Northampton and attended Rugby School and Oxford Brookes University.
He started his senior rugby career at Bedford Athletic and, qualifying for Canada through his mother, enjoyed a meteoric rise through his country’s under-20 and A teams before winning his first full cap against Chile last year.
Although his four international appearances have been at fly-half, Povey is equally at home at full-back, where Winter seems him playing a role for Cov.
Former Bedford Blue Lewis, who is also 21, made 29 National One appearances for Cambridge on a dual-registration basis over the last two seasons. He also played in New Zealand for North Otago.
Woolford arrives in Coventry with the experience of over 50 Championship matches under his belt from spells with London Scottish and London Welsh. The 25-year-old lock began his career with Saints academy.
Winter has also confirmed that winger Tim Bitirim has been released from his contract and will concentrate on his university studies at Loughborough.
Rowland Winter said:
“Dan’s pedigree as an international rugby player speaks for itself – he’s a very exciting addition to our squad.
“He brings plenty of size, experience and physicality into our pack in a position where we’ve been hit with injuries.
“He likes to get his hands on the ball, and also has strong setpiece skills which are well-suited to the English Championship. At 29 he’s in the prime of his career, and comes highly recommended.
“I’ve known Robbie for ten years; he’s an exciting young talent who came through the Northampton system and has really developed in the last couple of years to earn his international caps.
“Dan is a player we have been aware of for a year or so – he’s a talented, creative back who did well against us for Cambridge last year. He’s since had some good development time in New Zealand and hopefully will benefit from working with Nick Walshe.
“Alex is an experienced second row who will be a useful addition to the squad given that we are currently without Nile Dacres and George Oram. His lineout skills are a real strength, and his experience in the Championship and A League will be very valuable.”
Phil Nilsen might live up to his Asbo nickname on the pitch, but he’s enjoying a new lease of life at Coventry Rugby. He tells Mark Forster he came to the Butts Park Arena because of the club’s ambition – and he’s still a few of his own.
He does the hard yards, the hard hits and the hard commute.
And Phil Nilsen wouldn’t have it any other way.
The move to Coventry Rugby Club came at the right time and helped rejuvenate the 33-year-old hooker, fearsome on the pitch, friendly off it.
“I left Yorkshire Carnegie at the end of my testimonial,” he says. “I left on my own terms. I felt the club had lost its ambition.
I’d been there many years, through name changes, promotions, relegations, different coaches, new owners.
It was a really difficult decision for me, but coming to Coventry was the best decision I’ve ever made.
I had other offers from Championship sides, Premiership options, but I wanted to be at an ambitious club.”
Dropping down from the Championship to National League One had the potential to backfire, but Nilsen never had any doubts.
“When I met Rowland Winter (Coventry’s Director of Rugby) we agreed the contract there and then. He had the ambition for Coventry. I definitely think I’m rejuvenated as a player, I started to enjoy the game again, started to enjoy my life again.
It’s a good feeling.”
Remaining in Leeds, where wife April is a doctor and his three ‘Vikings’ are in school, Phil has a gruelling commute several days a week.
“The commute doesn’t really bother me. Leeds is a big city and I would spend more than an hour driving to train on the other side of the city when I played there.
I’m probably at home more than when I was at Leeds.”
‘Daddy daycare’ is one of the times he looks forward to, when April is at work.
He praises the compact training sessions at Coventry with helping his appetite for rugby and spending more time with the family. “You get in, get everything done, weights, reviews, units and you’re not hanging around doing nothing.”
Nilsen does a lot of his weight training at home, evidence of the dedication to the cause, which helped Coventry win a long-awaited promotion last season.
That was a highlight for the Sale-born hooker, bouncing back to English rugby’s second tier and embracing the values Coventry Rugby embodies.
“I played against Coventry many years ago. They had a reputation then as having a hard, nasty pack. As far as the history goes, that’s something that Rowland filled me in on.
To be part of that history is amazing. The old school lads are still there to shake our hands. That is special. And we have Gully (Tony Gulliver, first team manager, who played 381 times for the blue and whites) to talk to.
I’ve played in the Championship and the Premiership, this club is well supported. From my experience, more success will bring more supporters in. We want more success.
It’s fantastic to hear the Coventry roar. The people, the supporters are great, the noise they make is great. It really helps. To have that connection with the fans is something special.”
With his thumping tackles and appetite for the ruck and roll, Nilsen has quickly become a fan favourite.
I wasn‘t able to be at the Championship opener against Jersey at Butts Park Arena, but I heard the thwack on the radio as Nilsen put in a ferocious tackle or two.
I was at the Mennaye Stadium when a battered and bruised Nilsen, stung by the disappointment of defeat, still had the decency to shake hands with supporters and thanked them for travelling down to cheer on the team.
Nilsen is less a student of the game than a professor. He understands the mental edge needed to succeeded, but also looks at ways to improve, be the best and to beat the opposition.
He prides himself on his fitness: “They might be younger but not fitter. I’m getting older, but I think it comes down to mentality. I have a job to do and I need to do it and do it well to continue doing it.
I do my weights at home. It just suits me better. I’m not always as heavy or big as other players, so my ability at the set piece is fundamental. The way I play the game, I have to be very good set piece-wise to even get a place in the team.
If you want a pack with edge, you need to find players that bring it. It’s something that players have in them. It’s the one thing you can’t teach.
But there’s no point having that edge if you’re not good technically. The Championship is very different to National League One. You’ll get teams who will look to win a penalty, kick to touch, maul, drive, trying to win the penalty and go again. When winter comes it will be more a case of that. We have to be able to deal with it.
We have a dangerous backline and I think we are trying to evolve both styles. The environment at Coventry makes a huge difference, being able to flick that switch, from having a laugh and chat to going full tilt, banging your head against the wall.
I’ve been around environments that haven’t been positive. It’s easy to fall into a negative rut. That’s not the case at Coventry.”
Nilsen says forwards coach Louis Deacon, a former England international, has helped the pack thrive, both collectively and individually.
“The environment at Coventry was perfect, exactly what I needed. The attention to detail is fantastic. Louis Deacon understands what the players need, the systems, being able to adapt a system around a player.”
There is a healthy rivalry with Scott Tolmie, with both enjoying starting berths in the number two shirt last season. The recruitment of Darren Dawidiuk over the summer from London Irish and with several terms at Gloucester on his CV, means competition is harder than ever.
“Scott is a great bloke. And now we’ve got Dukes as well. We are all different players. It’s good to have players in a position that play different styles. And being a replacement isn’t bad, because you need that bench to win the game.
Scott works hard, always doing his extras. For me as a player, you always need that competition.
For me, 30 minutes of a game is a big period. You can completely change the game in that time, positively or negatively. The game is tougher now and I understand the need to rotate players, keep the squad fresh.
But I always want to be starting. I’m very open and honest with the club that I always want to start. I’ll always do my best, whether I start or I’m on the bench.
I’m naturally fit and I like to get involved, be in the thick of it. People think about tries; it might be when a winger scores in the corner, but it might be someone who cleared out a ruck to win that ball that provided the platform, made the difference.
Knowing I’ve played my part in a try, that’s a really good feeling.”
A bad feeling is defeat, but Nilsen insists the reverse against Cornish Pirates had its positives. “I think we’ve shown already that we’re better than some people thought. The Pirates game was a big disappointment, but looking back, I think we got some of our game right, but we gave points away, left points out there. The focus for us as a team is to do what we do well on the pitch.
I’ve been a hooker for 13 or 14 years now. I’ve seen a lot of changes, the scrum laws have changed. I play my game as an extra back rower. In the set piece my basic job is throwing at the lineout and hooking at the scrum.
There is less impact in the engage now, you have to strike for the ball. There is a lot more pressure in the scrum as a result. It’s about building pressure. It’s a big tactical battle, the scrum. For a second in the scrum, you lose the hooker, then it’s about getting all 16 feet on the floor. There are the angles you push at and for me, it’s being able to have the mental toughness, the determination to succeed and knowing what to do.”
Nilsen has continued to move forward during his career. In more ways than one. He got involved in rugby when a friend’s dad took him to a training session at Trafford RFC when he was 10 years old.
“I played a lot of sport when I was a kid. Rugby just seemed right for me.
I started off at full-back, then outside centre, then number eight. At school I played number eight and the centre. Two or three of us were the best runners, so the ball didn’t get passed much, but it was about winning.
I moved to hooker when I was about 20. Stuart Lancaster (then coach of what was Leeds Tykes) moved me. I was too small to be a Premiership six or eight, and I wasn’t quick enough to be a seven. So he tried me at hooker.”
Nilsen has tremendous respect for Lancaster who was fired as England coach after a dismal 2015 World Cup campaign, when the hosts went out in the group stages.
“Lanny scouted me, he started the academy at Leeds. He provided a platform for us to learn and become better. He was a hands-on coach who would have one to one sessions with us, to give us feedback.
He’s different to Rowland, who is very good at organising people, very good at managing. It was unfair how Lanny got treated.
I also know Sam Burgess (the rugby league convert also blamed for England’s faltering campaign) from being Up North,” he says. “He did his best and you could see he really wanted to be involved. It wasn’t right, how the media handled it.”
Nilsen doesn’t hold back, on the field or off it, but he’s hugely positive.
He credits wife April ‘his best friend’ with being a ‘massive support’.
“She was hugely supportive when I left Leeds. It was a difficult decision for everybody. She backed me. She’s the one who helps me get things sorted. Her main strength is organising the tribe and telling me to man up on a daily basis. She’s amazing.”
Coventry Rugby will host the full Canada senior squad on Monday, November 5 as the Cannucks prepare for their round of World Cup qualifying games against Kenya, Germany and Hong Kong later that month in Marseilles.
“Canada’s coach, Kingsley Jones said they needed a preparation game while we were speaking on another matter, and we jumped at the chance of playing them,” said director of rugby, Rowland Winter.
“The game falls on a weekend off from the league and will prepare us for the Championship Cup, so it’s an ideal situation.
It’s quite an honour to host a national team and we hope it will be a great occasion for our supporters.”
A number of Canadian internationals have played for Coventry, notably John Cannon, Nik Witkowski and James Pritchard.
It will be the first time that Cov have played a national side since Georgia came to Coundon Road in the late 1990s.