Following the first few intensive weeks of the new Championship season we have a break in proceedings as the British & Irish Cup takes centre stage with a visit to South Wales.
For Moseley the timing of the cup this season may just prove to be ideal. Without decrying the cup format the priority for English clubs is very much focussed on remaining in the Championship come April time. While the chance to challenge yourself against opposition from Ireland, Scotland & Wales is always interesting the pressures to succeed are very different.
With Moseley having faced high flying Rotherham twice along with tough away assignments at Plymouth and Penzance means the Championship structure has not allowed them to ease into the season. The upcoming two weeks of B&I cup games should allow the team to gain more valuable playing time together along with the chance to return to the playing style seen in the pre-season games.
The two teams are no strangers to each other having previously met in the cup in November 2011, where Cross Keys were victorious 42 – 3 at Pandy Park. That season the team progressed to the finals of the B&I cup eventually losing to Munster A.
The Principality Premiership side enters this seasons B&I through a start of season qualification playoff system which saw them defeat Newport 39 – 17 & Bedwas 45 – 13. Keys currently stand in 6th place in the league with 2 wins (Swansea & Llandovery) against 2 losses.
Coming into the season Keys have maintained a very stable squad which has been enhanced by the likes of Wales 7s player Rhys Jones at Fly Half and Back Row Reuben Tucker from Cardiff. Outside the playing squad one of the most notable additions has been the signing of recent Wales full back Morgan Stoddard as backs coach, following his retirement from playing in January. Stoddard, an attack minded player, will be looking to develop a further cutting edge to the Gwent teams backline.
As a club Cross Keys can trace their origins back to 1885. And during their history have produced a number of notable Welsh internationals including Welsh Captain Ossie Male during the 1920’s, Frank Bowdler a hooker who would turn out for Wales having put in a shift in the mine that morning and most recently current Wales & British & Irish Lions star Toby Faletau who played for Keys before joining the Newport Gwent Dragons. Faletau learnt his rugby as a youngster as part of the Cross Keys junior rugby setup.
Despite the disappointment of the loss at the Mennaye field last Friday Moseley will have viewed the improved performance over the Rotherham games as a positive to build on. The main priority for the team is to reduce the, in most cases, unforced errors that cost them dearly. The team, while recycling the ball successfully and moving it through many phases, cannot allow the opposition to sit back, absorb the pressure and wait to pick off mistakes.
The team needs to become adept at changing the point of attack and varying the speed of it. A telling example of this was Moseley’s success in scoring a well taken try by bringing Scott Armstrong in on a decisive run through the midfield. All too often last week recycled ball was taken at the opposition with little real conviction and pace.
Now is the time for some of the more senior players in the squad to start taking a greater responsibility, calling the shots on the field. They should look to assess the game as it develops and keep the opposition guessing by varying plays.
The trip to Cross Keys could just prove to be one of the defining moments of the season if the team believes in their obvious abilities, relaxes and plays to their strengths. Plus it’s always good to have a cup win to savour.
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