Sunday, 25 August 2013

Season's Preview: Gloucester


Nickname: Cherry & Whites

Founded: 1873

Years in Top Tier: 26

Last Year: 5th in Prem (60 points), Quarter Finals in Amlin Challenge Cup, Group Stage in Anglo-Welsh Cup

Europe: Heineken Cup

Director of Rugby: Nigel Davies


In: Matt Kvesic (Worcester), James Hudson (Newcastle), Tavis Knoyle (Llanelli), Tom Hicks (Northampton), Johnny Bentley (Cornish Pirates), Dan George (London Welsh)

Out: Jim Hamilton (Montpellier), Pete Buxton (Retiring-Coaching Staff), Dave Lewis (Exeter), Dario Chistolini (Zebre), Will Graulich (Cornish Pirates), Drew Locke (Jersey), Tommaso d’Apice (Unknown), Ian Clark (Coventry)

Ins: 6

Outs: 8

Gloucester have had a quiet transfer time this summer with only really one big out, Captain Big Jim Hamilton moving to Montpellier, and a couple of biggish ins: new England openside Matt Kvesic, from neighbours Worcester, and James Hudson who joins from Championship Champions Newcastle.

With Andy Hazell and Akapusi Qera as other options at openside, Sione Kalamafone and Ben Morgan at 8, and Matt Cox and Tom Savage as options at 6 the Gloucester back row has a scary amount of talent.  Probably the best back row in the country.

But up front there is a hint of a soft underbelly.  Nick Wood has never convinced at the truly highest level, too much brain not enough brawn, and Shaun Knight is still young and developing at tighthead.  He should come good, though, as he’s certainly tough enough.  Backing them up is only Rupert Harden and Dan Murphy.  At lock without Big Jim I wonder if there is enough ballast, Savage is still willowy, Hudson has always been more of left lock than a tight one, Lokotui is again more of a left lock than a tight one. 

Their backline is a similar story; Robson, Burns, Twelvetrees, May, Sharples are all top quality operators but all are on England’s radar.  If Burns and Twelvetrees both get the call up to England then Gloucester’s 10 and 12 would have to be Tim Taylor and Tim Molenaar, maybe the untried Ryan Mills.  It’s not a great look for potentially 14 weeks of the season.

This strange mix of strengths and weaknesses means I could honestly see Gloucester finish in the Play Offs and win the title at Twickenham, but also I can see them getting injuries and being involved in a relegation dog fight.

Prediciton: Split the difference 7th

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