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Strength By Position

By Margin_Walker
August 10 2017

With the first pre season game around the corner, where do we think we are strongest by position and where are the biggest gaps? Margin_Walker looks at the current state-of-play.

 For me it would be something like this (strongest to weakest):

Scrum Half - Lots of depth here with 3 AP ready options and a top quality prospect in Brand in the academy.

Tighthead - Bit of a Dad's Army look to it with Franks and Du Plessis, but lots of depth and experience. Saolo also offers an interesting option.

Hooker - Again plenty of depth with 5 hookers. Paice and Fainga'a leading the way, but Dawidiuk also a capable deputy, before you get to players untested at this level.

Wing - Pretty happy with our options on the wing. Lewington (apart from a case of dropsies against Doncaster) looked so sharp on his return last season and has performed at this level before. Nalaga, Cokanasiga, Tiks and Ransom all bring offer different threats which we'll hopefully be able to take advantage of.

Blindside - Coman was great last season, with Schatz and Lomidze also strong options here.

Inside Centre - Should be solid here with Williams, Mulchrone and McLean all offering something slightly different. Could also see TBC continue to pop up here.

Fly Half - A crucial position for us, given how much of a problem not having a decent ten was for us last time. We are definitely stronger this time around, albeit without a player that's properly guided a team at this level before from ten. Crucially we have a top class kicker now in Bell, who will hopefully stay injury free.

Fullback - Hard to separate too much from fly half, given that a lot of the players are interchangeable (Marshall/Bell/Tonks).

Outside Centre - Starts to get a little less convincing here on paper imo. As good as he's been, prefer Mulchrone as a 12 personally. Tiks has featured a lot, but I'd worry defensively at this level and Fowlie is yet to really fire. Hearn also hit and miss.

Number 8 - Trev isn't getting any younger and Lomidze is a bit of a wild card. Could be fine but compared to others in the league we are a bit light here imo. Schatz could also feature.

Openside - Cowan is proven at this level, but while I really like Northcote-Green and Gilsenan, they'll need to perform under pressure is Cowan is out.

Loosehead - Reid should be a good signing. Other options not really established at this level or are coming back from long term injuries (Smallbone)

Lock - Definitely short of numbers and real proven quality here. Four senior locks with no one ready to step up from the academy. Whilst De Chaves didn't get a look in at Leicester, I've no doubt he'll be fine. Paulo's fairly experienced, but has bounced about a fair bit, with Lloyd and McNally less experienced options. Assume we'll pick someone else up before the start of the season, whether VDM or someone else.

Overall we've got a stronger squad than we did last time, but the league has also moved on a bit. Will take a real effort and a bit of luck along the way (or at least not the massive glut of injuries we had in key positions in 15-16) to avoid the drop, without an obviously weak team. Will likely take at least 5 wins to stay clear of 12th spot imo and early wins will be crucial. Will need a few players to step up and make a name for themselves, but do have the advantage of a little more cohesion in the playing and coaching setup this time.

Of the current academy crop, I think Brand will be closest to an AP appearance, with Matt Williams and Curtis-Harris (if he can stay injury free) as a wild cards.

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Strength By Position
The Craic (IP Logged)
10/08/2017 10:09
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Re: Strength By Position
SirBurger (IP Logged)
10/08/2017 10:33
Good read MW and I largely agree. However, I am probably more optimistic about our options at 7 and loosehead than you as I have a lot of faith in Northcote-Green and Hobbs-Awoyemi and Elrington in those respective roles. I would probably have outside centre as our second weakest slot after the second row. 8 is the big unknown. We need one of Lomidze or Nayalo to really step up.

Re: Strength By Position
jimbo800 (IP Logged)
10/08/2017 10:49
My biggest concern is the huge improvement made to squads and performances by teams in the one season we were away. Other teams in our position haven't had to face such a difference in the season they were absent. The extra money is starting to show.
I honestly don't feel like we've made enough improvement to the forwards with guys familiar with the league. 4 or 5 haven't played in England before. Forwards discipline will also dictate how many we lose and by how much. What I'd do to have a workhorse like symons in that squad. To have more hookers than second row is madness. You only need 1 hooker on the pitch.
In the backs we have the potential to compete. I feel outside centre was an area we needed to step up and get an out and out 13. Joe, nalaga, lewington and ransom are only as good as the ball they receive. I hope they're given the space they need as they are deadly finishers. Would loved to have had C Hodgson in as backs coach, backs still don't fire they way they need to for this league.
Bonus points will keep us up or drop us. When we lost before, we faded away in the last 20 which made LBP impossible.
1. Morale is better, they all keep mentioning it.
2. Great kicker, keep him fit
3. A target everyone seems to be working towards
4. Management who know the league and love the club
5. All round a better squad with some deadweight now gone.

we need a slice of luck and some self belief. We can absolutely stay up, we've got an awful lot riding on it.

Re: Strength By Position
AlecW (IP Logged)
10/08/2017 10:52
Where 2nd row is concerned, I would hope that Kendo be a pretty good judge and would know what he is getting, with the people we have...! That said, if he thinks we are short-handed/locked, then I'd trust him to hire the best available...

I'd've loved Ed Slater, for instance...

Re: Strength By Position
Margin_Walker (IP Logged)
10/08/2017 11:15
At the end of the day it's going to come down to some of the intangible things Jimbo mentions. We've got a decent enough squad to be competitive in games, but there needs to be a good sense of unity and morale throughout the squad, even in adversity.

Cohesion will also be important and it's good to have the coaching team we have. The core of which have now had 3 years together (including 2 running the academy) and many more years as players before that. There will be no excuse for confused gameplans this season. Everyone should know their role.

Re: Strength By Position
Smudge21 (IP Logged)
10/08/2017 11:25
I think we will be fine at loosehead as hobbs-awoyemi proved he has what it takes and Elrington also stepped up however he's not premiership ready yet. Really hope smallbone can get back to where he was before his injury as it will be a huge Boost having 3 looseheads all ready to start with Elrington not far behind them
Also think we will be fine at number 8, we will soon find out but I think lomidze could be a real find but obviously he's unproven. I still have high hopes for nayalo too but we will see.
For me at centre if mulchrone gets an injury I would really start to worry. He's so important for us defensively and does a lot of work at the breakdown it's as If we have an extra back row on the pitch. Other than Williams I feel there is a drop off in quality.

Re: Strength By Position
SirBurger (IP Logged)
10/08/2017 12:35
I think Elrington could be a real gem for us at loosehead. I would have no qualms with him being a bench option in a Premiership 23 based on what I saw last season.

Re: Strength By Position
Margin_Walker (IP Logged)
10/08/2017 12:38
Yep, agree. Just to clarify. A lot of the OP is based on proven ability at this level. Think there are a few like Danny HA, Elrington, Northcote-Green etc who will do fine.

Re: Strength By Position
orsoncart (IP Logged)
11/08/2017 17:38
Lot of sense here, good stuff indeed

Disappointing that it seems to have gone very quiet on Van der Merwe, as completely agree that we look very light at lock, and, in fact, weaker than in the championship

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2017:08:11:17:39:39 by orsoncart.

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