It has been 16 long years but the Boxing Day battle between the oldest neighbours in West Midlands rugby is back, writes Andy Walker.
Moseley head to Coventry for a post-Christmas tussle that will be far from joyful and absent of goodwill. There will be no late gifts handed out between those in red and black and those in blue and white at the Butts Park Arena.
The fixture, which dates back to 1879, returns to the traditional December 26 slot for the first time since 1992 and the move will please rugby traditionalists.
Moseley head coach Ian Smith believes a whole generation would have missed out on two teams battling it out in the freezing mud on Boxing Day.
“I think it depends on how old you are,” he said. “I was used to playing on Boxing Day, there used to always be a game on. I think people of my generation will always associate Boxing Day with a game of rugby. It’s good to get people out of the house and down to watch a load of men attempting to run the weight off.
“They were always very exciting to play, when I was at Gloucester those fixtures were always for newcomers or fringe players. The more senior players used to have that day off. They were always great games and you always had a fantastic supply of shampoo and deodorant that you’d received for Christmas.”
In truth you could schedule this fixture in the middle of summer and it still wouldn’t lack any of the spice of a Moseley-Coventry derby. The latest battle promises to be one of the closest yet, Mose sit ninth in National One while Coventry are only four points behind in 11th and with plenty at stake following the RFU’s decision to revamp the league it won’t be lacking passion.
Coventry director of rugby Phil Maynard said: “I remember the games between these two sides when I was a youngster. These go back a lot further beyond me and other people at the club. Back in 1908 there was a riot and Coventry were thrown out the league. A fight broke out on the pitch, it spilled out into the stands and then spread into the town so that just goes to show how big this fixture has always been. When I saw that it was around Christmas it always made perfect sense to me.”
Maynard has a painful memory of the last time the teams met at Billesley Common in September. His first derby in charge of Cov left them a well-beaten 34-12. “On a personal basis I felt sick, physically sick, with our performance. Sides have usually responded to that fixture for me in the past but we didn’t on that day. I stayed in the bar till 7pm soaking up all the taunts and the jokes just to make sure that I remembered exactly how I felt after a result like that.”
Smith is hoping to welcome back centre Andy Reay after a back spasm but prop Terry Sigley is still out with a badly gashed knee. Despite Coventry being ‘battered and bruised’ in a 32-14 defeat at Cornish Pirates on Sunday, Maynard says they will be ready for the big one.