GLOUCESTER, IT is safe to say, have had a very poor start to the season, and while others look to Saturday’s games with ambition, Gloucester will just want to turn things around.
On Friday, Director of Rugby Nigel Davies spoke out about the club’s current situation as the Aviva Premiership’s current bullies-in-chiefs Northampton Saints visit Kingsholm this Saturday.
According to the coach Saints “will be coming here as strong favourites based on their past two performances and results. They will come here with a lot of confidence, and rightly so.”
The worry for Davies is that after a red card for prop Nick Wood in the opening minute of last week’s eventual thumping from Saracens and a loss to last season’s strugglers Sale Sharks, the young team many had tipped to be pushing the big boys have been uncharacteristically flat.
That being said, there is too much talent in the squad and too much rugby still to be played before Gloucester can be written off. Last week may have been a blip; it may not have been as bad as the stark facts and column scribblings suggest.
“It is very difficult to judge last weekend,” Davies said. “In terms of spirit and commitment, there was plenty. But, in terms of the result, it was very difficult having played virtually the entire game with 14 men.
“I was actually a little bit happier with the performance last Sunday than I was the week before. I’ve got no doubt that we are going to be a lot better than in the first game of the season.”
There is a glimmer of hope for Gloucester with ruthlessly-booted Freddie Burns available and deputized by returning All Black Jimmy Cowan while the eight-week loss of Nick Wood may not be so keenly felt with Alex Corbisiero also missing from Saints, as he is rested.
The hope will be that the bullish runners of Northampton can be shackled by the kid on debut, lock Elliott Stooke, and the much-hyped Matt Kvesic. Ben Morgan still can’t squeeze into the starting team, though.
This is the potential stand-out of Saturday’s games, the day after Worcester Warriors try to play a bit more rugby against a Harlequins side that has hopefully dried out after their close-fought match last week and Sale Sharks and London Wasps will be hoping to avenge recent losses, all under Friday night lights.
Elsewhere in the league on Saturday, Leicester Tigers have picked an impressive side to play Newcastle Falcons with headline-magnet Manu Tuilagi in at centre, Ben Youngs at 9 and Toby Flood back from a brutal pre-season knock. With Lions Geoff Parling, Dan Cole and Tom Youngs on the bench this is a team with intent to right the wrongs of last week’s loss to Bath.
Round two’s kicking saviour Rory Clegg is pulled in by the Falcons to replace Phil Godman but Danny Barnes falls out of the centres with an elbow injury. The North East’s finest may have a lot of repelling to do.
Someone will come out in the black and one will drop into the red this weekend when one-win-one-loss sides London Irish and Exeter Chiefs meet at the Madejski. Irish have hauled in loan-signing second-row Ian Nimmo to sit on the bench, while Declan Danaher bosses proceedings in the back-row and Fergus Mulchrone sits in the centre.
Exeter move around little and will be hoping they can impose some confines to the game, shackling Irish and their in-form winger Marland Yarde while punishing the breakdown.
Want another antagonistic rugby move? Bath are starting Gavin Henson against the juggernaut of Saracens on Sunday, and Tom Heathcote starts at fly-half for the first time in this Aviva Premiership season, meaning big Gav has a bit more game time and form that could help him score some telling points…
Will their be much re-jigging of the league after this next round?