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Accent On Youth

By Mark Forster
July 30 2019

THERE’S nothing like a good old debate on social media when you’re miles away from the action. And Coventry Rugby’s news that Ross Stewart, highly regarded for his coaching of junior players, has chosen to move to Butts Park Arena full-time, is getting some tongues wagging on t’internet.    

Stewart, an old compadre of Director of Rugby Rowland Winter, is a seasoned coach who clearly knows his onions and his decision to step across on a permanent basis is surely a huge vote of confidence in Cov and its set up.

After all, he came to Coventry last season to work with the development side, alongside his job at Northampton Saints, so he knows full well what he’s letting himself in for.

This isn’t a gamble based on the lure of filthy lucre, this is a man investing his belief in Cov’s future. You don’t build reputations like his over the years only to sacrifice it for a half-arsed initiative. If he wasn’t convinced after last season, he wouldn’t be fully on board for next.

Now, Coventry has a real accent on youth. Rowland Winter’s pedigree includes working with younger players, much of it alongside Stewart, while Anthony Allen, the newly-installed defence coach, helped Leicester Academy to back to back titles and has been a feature of the England Under-20 coaching set up. With Stewart fully on board after 15 seasons at Saints, the future looks bright.

Stewart, who worked alongside Winter at Franklin Gardens, also understands the demands of senior rugby, having taken over the helm of Cov’s erstwhile National League One rivals Cambridge from Winter.


Yet there have been concerns voiced. With local club rugby arguably in the doldrums compared to a few decades ago, will the promising talent be tempted to Cov only to be lost to the game if they don’t make the grade?

Will the junior clubs suffer as Cov cherry picks the best?

Maybe, but then, that’s always been the case. And if not Cov, it would be some other club.

Indeed, there was talk that Premiership Wasps would have the pick of the bunch anyway and Cov would be getting the scraps.

Except, and this is the big difference - Cov have Winter, Stewart and Allen. These are the guys who have worked magic with youngsters, who have the ability to inspire, encourage and enthuse players to higher levels. To value-add. No disrepect to Wasps, or any other nearby Prem club, but we’ve got the holy trinity when it comes to youth. This is not a competition, or a ‘my cat is blacker than yours’, just acknowledgement that Cov is putting rugby first, investing in youth big time. And it’s long overdue.

If Wasps have a better set up; brilliant. No worries. But I think Northampton and Leicester might be concerned at the loss of what amounts to much more than a brain’s trust. Stewart and Allen will take some replacing. But they will be replaced. And life will go on.

Coventry’s gain. If anything, it seems that Cov will be looking to mop up those youngsters not deemed good enough by the likes of Wasps, Saints and Tigers and give them a second chance. If they were good enough to make a Premiership Academy in the first place, there’s plenty of talent to work with.

And yes, I know that Allen has not been appointed to oversee the youth side of things, but, like Winter, he will be available to help Stewart in his role. Even if it’s a case of ‘have a look at this lad, what do you think?’ Not forgetting that Stewart will have other club talent at his disposal as academy manager. First team players, will be involved, too. And when those youngsters make it to the first team, the support they will have will be second-to-none.

I can’t see any youngster not making the grade turning away from the sport after being coached by what Coventry has to offer.

Indeed, they would be able to take the lessons they will have learned from Coventry back to the junior clubs if they don’t carry on to first team duties or beyond.

Cov unearths future stars, shows it is serious about its historic role in and around the city, and pushes its partner work with schools and clubs to get the best for rugby.


If Cov’s work in the community can get one more player interested in the sport, who might end up playing for Keresley or Earlsdon every Saturday, for example, then isn’t that a success?

If a teenager gets picked to play for Cov Under 18s, but fails, for whatever reason, to make it at adult grade in a blue and white jersey, isn’t he going to be an asset to one of the junior clubs anyway?

Hopefully, Cov will improve further its links with the junior clubs, too. In the distant past it was a very one-sided affair, but Winter and his crew are too savvy to let that happen again. While they have Cov as their primary focus, they are rugby men who want to advance the sport.

Take a trip back in time and World Cup winner Neil Back, along with fellow England internationals Leon Lloyd and Richard Cockerill were among those who were scooped up by Leicester instead of Cov. Back and Lloyd were Barkers’ Butts youngsters, Cockers a Newbold-on-Avon starlet, and all played a key role in a very successful Leicester side.

I’m not suggesting that won’t happen again, but with such keen rugby eyes in Stewart, I’d hope Cov would be in the driving seat to snap up such potential.

And yes, like many in recent years, they might well move onto a ‘bigger’ club to advance their careers if Cov don’t make it back to the Premiership. Danny Grewcock moved to Saracens after winning his first England cap in Cov colours, but even then felt he could further cement his place in the national side with a move to Bath.

It happens.

Will Hurrell was a stand out centre/winger a few seasons ago in Coventry’s National League One campaigns. Having been part of the England youth set up and at Leicester Tigers, he spent some time at Championship clubs before joining Bristol Bears and showing he has what it takes to excel at the top of the English game.

It happens.

What Coventry is doing, is setting out its stall for the future. No more lurching from crisis to crisis, no more short-termism, survival a goal. This is another building block for the club, for the city, for rugby and sport in general.

Stewart’s decision to move across full-time will bear fruit.
Just wait and see.


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Accent On Youth
Discussion started by Unofficial Coventry Rugby (IP Logged), 30/07/2019 08:40
Unofficial Coventry Rugby
Unofficial Coventry Rugby
30/07/2019 08:40
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2019:08:07:10:46:36 by AdminBTCov.

30/07/2019 16:17
Lets not forget, that we have Phil Boulton and Sam Tuitupou working with the under 18's also, who both must be a bit of a draw wihth aspiring young rugby talent.

For me Coventry as a Championship side can offer a better pathway into adult rugby than say Wasps, Northampton, Worcester or Leicester. Winter has already shown that if you are good enough and have the right attitude you will be given a chance. The whole set up at Coventry is geared to nurturing players on and off tbe pitch. For me the progress that has been made with tbe Development side and the under 18's is one of the most exciting things happening at the club.

Wouldnt it be great to see a player come through tbe system play for Coventry and then get an international cap. I can see it happening I really can.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2019:07:30:16:19:49 by HoboAl.

30/07/2019 17:29
I said after his first season with us, Winter will be an international HC one day.

Duckham walked on water
Duckham walked on water
30/07/2019 21:35
"Richard Cockerill were among those who were scooped up by Leicester instead of Cov."

Cockerill was of course "scooped up" by Cov and then moved to Leicester, so bit different to Back and Lloyd

31/07/2019 06:40
We had that discussion and left as was DWOW. Could have added Goode, Garforth, and others too I suppose.
TBH, Cockerill moving to Leicester was a good thing (in my humble opinion, of course). I knew him when he was a kid around the local villages. Enough said!).

31/07/2019 09:15
Was coached by Cockers, hes a character for sure but a damn good forwards coach!

Chris Wearmouth
Chris Wearmouth
01/08/2019 16:05
Thanks for the positive article about Ross, Rowland, Anthony, Boults, and co. One thing to note is that Ross is a big believer in having young players continue to represent their club, school and county in addition to Cov - it is not one or the other. But it will all have to be done in a managed way which does not overload the player and where all of the coaches and medical staff involved are working collaboratively.

02/08/2019 09:15
Chris Wearmouth
Thanks for the positive article about Ross, Rowland, Anthony, Boults, and co. One thing to note is that Ross is a big believer in having young players continue to represent their club, school and county in addition to Cov - it is not one or the other. But it will all have to be done in a managed way which does not overload the player and where all of the coaches and medical staff involved are working collaboratively.

... unlike some other teams! ( and is in the distant past)

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