Coventry R.F.C.

Full name Coventry Rugby Football Club
Union RFU
Founded 1874 (1874)
Ground(s) Butts Park Arena (Capacity: 4,000)
Chairman Jon Sharp
President Peter Rossborough
Director of Rugby England Rowland Winter
League(s) National League 1
2015–16 9th
1st kit
2nd kit
Official website

Coventry Rugby Football Club is a rugby union club based in the city of Coventry, England. The club enjoyed great national success during the 1960s and the 1970s, with many of its players playing for their countries. Coventry's home ground is the Butts Park Arena, which opened in 2004. Between 1921 and 2004, the club played at Coundon Road Stadium, Coventry. The club currently play in SSE National League 1; the third tier of the English rugby union system.


It was back in 1874 when a group which also included some members of Stoke Cricket Club took part in what could be described as the first organised game of rugby football played in Coventry. Played against Allesley Park College in Allesley, it took the form of one half conducted according to rugby rules and the other according to association rules.

The first headquarters were established at Old Bull Fields and in the formative years Coventry remained pretty well unbeaten. When the ground became enclosed, it became known as the Butts with the first match played there against Stourbridge in 1880. By the late 1890s, involvement began in the Midland Counties Cup which was won a total of five times. The first club captain was Harry Ratliff, who later emigrated to the United States. By now players were winning representative honours, William Judkins becoming the club’s first British Lion in 1899 during the tour to Australia — overall, ten Coventry players have over the years worn the famous red jersey.

Ben Tuke & H G Wells were the club’s first internationals, both representing Ireland in 1894.

W L Oldham became the first of the club’s great forwards of the 20th century to represent England. Early in the century the Butts was lost when the professional Northern Union game took brief hold in the city.

By the end of the First World War, the Butts had been taken over by a local firm and a temporary home was found at the Coventry & North Warwickshire Cricket Ground at Binley Road before Coundon Road was purchased in 1921 and developed as the club’s headquarters which was to last for over 80 years. What was considered to be the first golden era of Coventry rugby came in the mid-1920s when losses were infrequent. That brilliance continued and carried over with Coventry producing six England internationals as well as playing a full part in the early Warwickshire successes in the County Championship. Regular representative matches by now were being staged at Coundon Road, at the same time playing successes for the club were continuing built upon local talent including many schools internationals.

The years of the Second World War brought more disruption, but from a playing point of view despite the inevitable difficulties, it became one of the most remarkable periods in the club’s history. Many players remained locally for essential war work because of the importance of the city as a key engineering centre, and consequently a record 72 games were won in succession, with a number of players becoming Victory Internationals. All that ensured that when hostilities finished the club was immediately into its stride again as success continued. The early 1950s saw something of a dip in fortune, but it was not to last too long as the club continued to produce many international players, not only for England but also Scotland and Wales. In 1958 the Midlands won their first-ever match against a touring side, some two-thirds of the team which defeated Australia coming from the Coventry club. This was also the time when again Coventry players totally dominated the County side, which saw Warwickshire win the title seven times in eight seasons.

The early 1960s saw the club’s players continue to win international honours, indeed by the early 1970s at one time thirteen players from the club were representing England. The RFU Club Knock Competition, later to be known as the John Player Cup, was won in consecutive seasons 1972–73 and 1973–74, the second of which coincided with the centenary celebrations. Merit tables were then beginning to come on the scene, the early years seeing the club at the top end of both the England & Wales versions. The 1980s, however, saw a dip in playing fortune and when league rugby was first introduced in 1987 the club spent just one season in what is now known as the Premiership.

The next ten years or so became something of a struggle before the 1996–97 season which would be Coventry's most successful of the modern era, coming within touching distance of the Premiership. Along the way they beat a Newcastle Falcons side featuring fifteen internationals by 19 – 18[1] at Coundon Road. They would eventually finish third to the well-funded Newcastle and champions Richmond but lost a promotion play-off to London Irish despite taking a narrow first leg advantage to Sunbury. Remarkably considering their second-tier status, both Danny Grewcock and Rob Hardwick were capped by England in this era. It was however to be at a severe cost for within a little over twelve months severe financial difficulties hit the club before a rescue package was put together just in time for the 1999–2000 season.

By now, however, Coundon Road was in need of considerable investment and after some eighty-four years the decision was made to move away and back full circle to the club’s beginnings. The Butts Park Arena saw its first game in September 2004, but again financial difficulties were to bite and it took the considerable efforts of members, supporters, former players and companies to rescue the situation during the summer of 2008. Even then, during the 2009–10 season it took the combined efforts of the Advisory Board to keep the club afloat before the first Board Of Directors was formed. Relegation unsurprisingly followed from the Championship, the club regrouping in National League 1 for the 2010–11 season with the players, previously full-time becoming part-time again. Steady progress has followed under the guidance of the Board, the desired aim being to climb back into the Championship but not at any cost financially as strict budgets are adhered to.


The club has been renowned for its exciting, attacking rugby. Playing at Coundon Road Stadium, their major local rivals were Moseley, with whom they had a regular and popular Boxing Day fixture. This was in the days when Leicester were a second order force in Midlands rugby. Cardiff and London Welsh were regular visitors. David Duckham scored the most impressive try of his career against London Welsh in a match in 1973.

Summary of league positions

After the use of Merit tables for the prior three seasons, in 1987 the RFU implemented a National League system. Below is a list summarizing Coventry's final league positions:

Current season

2016–17 National League 1 Table
Club Played Won Drawn Lost Points for Points against Points diff Try bonus Losing bonus Points
1 Hartpury College 14 14 0 0 634 186 448 14 0 70
2 Birmingham Moseley 14 11 0 3 402 310 92 6 1 51
3 Plymouth Albion 14 10 0 4 430 287 143 8 3 51
4 Blackheath 14 10 0 4 376 261 115 8 1 49
5 Ampthill 14 10 0 4 369 294 75 6 1 47
6 Coventry 14 8 0 6 438 354 84 6 2 40
7 Rosslyn Park 14 6 1 7 369 286 83 4 5 35
8 Old Albanian 14 6 0 8 360 375 −15 8 3 35
9 Loughborough Students 14 6 1 7 435 473 −38 7 1 34
10 Cambridge 14 6 0 8 371 469 −98 8 2 34
11 Esher 14 5 0 9 376 388 −12 6 5 31
12 Fylde 14 5 0 9 326 457 −131 7 3 30
13 Darlington Mowden Park 14 5 0 9 257 400 −143 3 2 25
14 Hull Ionians 14 4 0 10 279 458 −179 2 4 22
15 Blaydon 14 2 1 11 296 520 −224 5 3 18
16 Macclesfield 14 2 1 11 293 493 −200 4 3 17
  • Points system: 4 points for a win; 2 points for a draw; 1 point if a team loses by seven points or less (losing bonus); 1 point if the team scores four or more tries in a match (try bonus)
  • If teams are level at any stage, tiebreakers are applied in the following order:
  1. Number of matches won
  2. Difference between points for and against
  3. Total number of points for
  4. Aggregate number of points scored in matches between tied teams
  5. Number of matches won excluding the first match, then the second and so on until the tie is settled

    Green background is the promotion place. Pink background are relegation places.
    Updated: 3 December 2016
    Source: "National League 1". NCA Rugby. 

    Current coaches

    Current squad

    2016-17 Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under WR eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-WR nationality.

    Player Position Union
    Matt Price Hooker England England
    Scott Tolmie Hooker Australia Australia
    Phil Boulton Prop England England
    Andy Brown Prop England England
    Jimmy Litchfield Prop England England
    Boris Stankovich Prop England England
    Robert Conquest Lock England England
    Tom Jubb Lock England England
    Tom Poole Lock England England
    Brendon Snyman Lock South Africa South Africa
    Alistair Bone Flanker England England
    Darrell Dyer Flanker England England
    Eoghan Grace Flanker Ireland Ireland
    Olly Povoas Flanker England England
    Brett Daynes Number 8 South Africa South Africa
    Sam Harry Number 8 England England
    Player Position Union
    Rhodri Adamson Scrum-half England England
    Sam Grasso Scrum-half Australia Australia
    Alex Smit Scrum-half South Africa South Africa
    Pete White Scrum-half England England
    Tony Fenner Fly-half England England
    Will Maisey Fly-half England England
    Brendan Burke Centre England England
    Corey Hircock Centre England England
    Rob Knox Centre England England
    Callum Macburnie Centre England England
    Tom Wheatcroft Centre England England
    Jay Heath Wing England England
    Dan Rundle Wing Australia Australia
    James Stokes Wing England England
    Max Trimble Wing England England
    Cliffie Hodgson Fullback South Africa South Africa
    James Pritchard Fullback Canada Canada


    In conjunction with Henley College, Coventry, the club jointly runs the "Coventry Rugby Development Centre". It "...provides an educational and player pathway for talented rugby players to progress to the Coventry Rugby Club 1st team and development team squads".

    Club honours

    Abridged recent history

    Coventry playing their last ever match at Coundon Road in April 2004.

    1998–2006 seasons

    In 1998, Keith Fairbrother, a former player for the club, became chairman. Fairbrother took over the club after it had gone into receivership that year (a role he would hold for eight years). In April 2004, Coventry played its final game at Coundon Road, its home for eighty-three years.

    2006–2010 : Under the ownership of Andrew Green

    On 23 August 2006, Andrew Green became the new owner and chairman of the club when he bought the controlling company (Butts Park Ventures (Coventry) Ltd) from Keith Fairbrother. Green was a former player and chief executive of Reading.

    Apoua Stewart, the Samoan international full-back, was suspended for two years on 1 November 2006 after testing positive for the banned stimulant ephedrine. In doing so, he became the first Coventry player to fail a drug test. Stewart gave a positive sample after the game against Earth Titans at the Butts Park Arena on 9 September 2006. He admitted the offence when he appeared before a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel at the Filton Holiday Inn Hotel in Bristol.[2]

    On 15 November 2006, the coach Mike Umaga, older brother of Tana Umaga, was also suspended following unspecified allegations.[3] He resigned a fortnight later on 27 November 2006.[4] Murray Henderson was appointed.

    The following season, after a series of poor results, Coventry announced that Murray, would be moved within the club from 17 December 2007.[5] Phil Maynard took over coaching responsibilities.

    On 1 December 2009, it was reported that club owner Andrew Green had put the club into voluntary liquidation.[6][7] It was later reported that this attempt had failed and that the club would instead go into administration.[8] On 8 January 2010 it was announced that the club had come out of administration with the formation of a new company Coventry Rugby Ltd with investment from businessman Jon Bowles.[9]

    2010– 2016: National League One Rugby

    The 2010–11 season saw the return of Phil Maynard, and although the club were relegated to National League 1, the management saw him as the man to start the new era at Coventry Rugby Club. A whole new squad was formed, alongside new coaching staff for the 2010 – 2011 with the aim of avoiding consecutive relegation's.

    Although it was announced that the 2011–12 budget would be lower than that of the previous season, the starting squad for 2011–12 appeared to contain more players vying for first XV team football. The Nighthawks (reserve) team was reformed, giving fringe players more opportunities.

    The 2012–13 season ended with Coventry in 9th place in National League 1. Following this, for the start of the 2013–14 season, ex Welsh International 2nd row Scott Morgan become Head Coach, while retaining a playing role.

    The following season, on 29 March 2014, Cliffie Hodgson broke the club's all time point scoring record, beating Steve Gough's record which had stood since the 1998–99 season. A 4th-placed finish was Coventry's most competitive season since being relegated into National League One. Inconsistent away form prevented them from truly challenging for promotion.

    During the 2014- 2015 season, on 24 January 2015, Coventry beat their previous wartime record for consecutive victories with a 32 – 22 home win over Cinderford.[10] The winning run of sixteen games ended with a 28 – 28 draw away at Richmond on 31 January 2015. The unbeaten run continued for another fortnight eventually reaching 18 games. It put the team in a position to challenge the league's only full-time professional side Ealing, who they'd beaten on the run, for the top spot before results tailed off. [11] Coventry finished 3rd.

    Following the improvement of the previous campaign and an ambitious recruitment policy [12] over the summer, there was optimism for a serious promotion push in 2015 - 2016. A crushing 50 point pre-season victory against famous old foes Cardiff [13] and bonus point wins in the opening two league fixtures [14] reinforced ambitions. However, a series of disappointing and unexpected results, poor form and injuries saw Cov drop into the bottom half of the table where they remained. In early 2016 it was announced Rowland Winter would become the club's full- time Director of Rugby for the 2016–17 season. [15] In February 2016 Cliffie Hodgson became the first Coventry player to exceed 1,000 points in league rugby. [16]

    2016- : The Rowland Winter Era

    New Director of Rugby Rowland Winter made wholesale changes to the club's culture, playing and backroom staff prior to the 2016- 2017 season. A starting XV of entirely new players turned out in the opening league fixture, a 54 - 14 win versus Loughborough. [17]

    Notable former players

    Coventry was one of the premier rugby clubs in the UK in the 1960s and 1970s and many of its players were capped during that time for England. Some notable ex-Coventry players are:

    Previous coaches

    Players gaining international honours

    The following players have played for their country while playing for Coventry. Unless otherwise noted, all played for England.

    • 1894
    • 1895
    • 1899
    • 1908
      • WL Oldham
    • 1909
      • WL Oldham
    • 1927
      • T Coulson
    • 1928
      • T Coulson
    • 1932
      • AJ Rowley
      • RS Roberts
    • 1935
      • AJ Clarke
      • JL Giles
    • 1936
      • AJ Clarke
      • HF Wheatley
    • 1937
      • JL Giles
      • HF Wheatley
      • A Wheatley
    • 1938
      • HF Wheatley
      • A Wheatley
      • JL Giles
    • 1939
      • HF Wheatley
    • 1946 Victory Internationals
      • HF Greasley (C)
      • H Pateman
      • NJ Stock
      • HF Wheatley
    • 1947
      • H Walker
    • 1948
      • H Walker
    • 1948
    • 1949
    • 1950
    • 1951

    • 1953
      • SJ Adkins
      • Wales RCC Thomas
    • 1954
      • E Robinson
    • 1956
    • 1957
    • 1958
    • 1959
      • HO Godwin
      • PB Jackson
    • 1961
      • J Price
      • E Robinson
      • PB Jackson
    • 1962
    • 1963
      • HO Godwin
      • PB Jackson
      • PE Judd
      • JE Owen
      • TA Pargetter
      • BJ Wightman
    • 1964
      • HO Godwin
      • PE Judd
      • JE Owen
    • 1965
      • PE Judd
      • JE Owen
    • 1966
      • JE Owen
      • PE Judd
    • 1967
      • PE Judd (C)
      • J Barton
      • RE Webb
      • Wales RE Jones

    • 1981
    • 1982
    • 1984
      • SE Brain
    • 1985
      • SE Brain
    • 1986
      • GL Robbins
    • 1988
      • Luxembourg R Guilfoyle (Munster)
    • 1996
      • CN Quick Wales
    • 1994
      • RJK Hardwick
    • 1997
    • 1999
      • Samoa M Mika
    • 2001
      • Tonga E Vunipola
      • Barbados K Johnson
    • 2003
      • Canada J Barker
      • Scotland Ian Nimmo
    • 2004
      • Canada J Cannon
      • Scotland Ian Nimmo
    • 2005
    • 2006
      • Barbados K Johnson
      • Samoa A Stewart
    • 2011
      • Portugal J le Roux
    • 2012
      • Portugal J le Roux

    This information was originally taken from display boards inside the clubhouse on 15 October 2006.


    1. Hicks, Danny (3 November 1996). "Newcastle Undone". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
    2. "Coventry player suspended for two years". Rugby Football Union. 1 November 2006. Retrieved 13 November 2006.
    3. "Coventry RFC Statement Regarding Mike Umaga". Coventry R.F.C. 14 November 2006. Archived from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 16 November 2006.
    4. "Umaga resigns as Coventry coach". BBC Sport. 27 November 2006. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
    5. "Coventry RFC Announce New Role For Henderson". Coventry R.F.C. 17 December 2007. Archived from the original on 18 December 2007. Retrieved 30 December 2007.
    6. Mairs, Gavin (1 December 2009). "Coventry RFC owner puts troubled Championship side into voluntary liquidation". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 1 December 2009.
    7. "Coventry Rugby Club face doubts over future". BBC Sport. BBC. 10 December 2009. Retrieved 10 December 2009.
    8. "Rossborough hopes for rescue deal at Coventry RFC". BBC Sport. BBC. 8 December 2009. Retrieved 8 December 2009.
    9. "Businessman Jon Bowles secures Coventry RFC's future". BBC Sport. BBC. 8 January 2010. Retrieved 12 January 2010.

    External links

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