TODAYS YOUTH, TOMORROW'S FUTURE (registered trade mark)
By Barty II
October 23 2018
With a few bruising encounters under our belts in recent weeks, the timing of the first international break could be a blessing in disguise. Our surviving England contingent have had an early dose of a traditional Eddie Jones training session with thanks to the good people of Harlequins and Glasgow, and the rest of the squad that’s featured heavily since the start of the season without an international call-up will have a chance to put their feet up for a bit.
In whatever form it’s taken, the “other cup” has always generated a mixed bag of opinion ranging from it being a brilliant idea to utterly worthless and just an extension of the Storm fixtures. Have to say I’m generally in the former camp, it’s a great way of keeping those a bit further down the pecking order match sharp, helping some return from injury, and exposing the senior academy players to a more competitive level of rugby.
I’m always reminded of a match a few years ago, where I had an irate gentleman behind me whinging for a full 80 minutes that he’d paid good money for his ticket and was expecting to see the top players, and not ‘benchwarmers and kids’. He was obviously a bit new to the scene so I tried and failed to explain where all our superstars were, and what our approach to the Anglo-Welsh Cup (as it was) is all about. For what it’s worth, I really like trying to get an idea of which of our academy products has the potential to go on to bigger and better things. This was the only point this chap understood, and he eventually conceded that “this big fella, ‘Mario I-Todger’ looks like he could be decent. Not sure what happened to him.
So, Mark McCall takes a back seat, and it falls to the likes of Adam Powell and Kelly Brown to balance a team of the underplayed members of the squad and the emerging youngsters among the ranks. Who knows, by the end of this run of fixtures I could be reporting on the next ‘Big Todger’. Chuckle.
Leicester are our opponents for the first cup fixture, and while they might not be losing as many players to the International break as in past years, they are expected to take a similar approach to the cup as we are, with Brett Deacon leading the team as development coach. I’ll admit my knowledge of Tigers’ third choice and academy players is patchy at best, but a friend in the Midlands tells me David Denton and Will Spencer are on the way back from injury and there could still be a Ford at fly half in the form of George’s older brother Joe. Jordan Olowofela is one of the brightest sparks in their academy, an England U-20 international, and has broken into their Premiership ranks this season. I won’t be so bold as to predict their line-up myself, but the good people of the Tigers board are hoping for something along the lines of:
Gigena, Kerr, Heyes, Fitzgerald, Lewis, Lavin, F.Tuilagi, Evans; Ezcurra, Ford, Olowofela, Hardwick, Smith, Aspland-Robinson, Thompstone…. Plus a bench.
Despite a fairly consistent selection policy in the Storm side, no doubt I’ll get the vast majority of the Sarries line-up wrong, but I’m going to have a go anyway! With a few props injured it’s a good chance to ensure we have a solid back-up, with Hayden Thompson-Stringer and Christian Judge probably getting a chance after looking comfortable off the bench recently. Academy props Ralph Adams-Hale and Billy Walker might feature if fit, else Richard Barrington wouldn’t mind some more minutes. At hooker, there’s a straight choice between Joe Gray, Tom Woolstencroft and Tadgh McIlroy. There are plenty of injuries/recoveries among the back five, and if fit I’d expect to see the experienced Dom Day partnering potential Big Todger (I’ll stop saying that now) Joel Kpoku in the second row, with brother Jon on the bench. Calum Clark and Sione Vailanu I believe are back from injury and could play, with Ben Earl captaining in a strong pack.
In the backs, I’m hoping to see a Vunipola. No not that one. Or that one. Cousin Manu has featured at fly half for the Storm team with Max Malins injured, and may get some time off the bench here. If Malins is still out, the half-back pair is likely to be Henry Taylor (also if fit!) and Tom Whiteley. At centre, time might be given to Marcelo Bosch on his injury return, with a host of candidates alongside him including Viliami Hakalo, Reuben Bird-Tulloch, and Morris brothers Dom and Oli. Rotimi Segun has also been injured of late, so pushing for a place in the back three are Matt Gallagher, Ali Crossdale and Elliot Obatoyinbo – wouldn’t be surprised to see Lewington or even Strettle though.
So for what it’s worth, my predicted line-up (and please congratulate me if I even get half of them right) is:
Thompson-Stringer, Gray, Judge, Day, Joel Kpoku, Clark, Earl, Vailanu; H Taylor, Whiteley, D Morris, Bosch, Hakalo, Crossdale, Gallagher
Bench: Woolstencroft, Adams-Hale, Walker, Jon Kpoku, Christie, Manu Vunipola, Bird-Tulloch, Obatoyinboj
Looking forward to the match report
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2018:11:04:12:01:27 by Darraghgirl.
Vialanu should be available this weekend at least, looking forward to seeing him back in action.
Stuart Barnes is a Cock Womble