Tuesday, 2 September 2014

2014/15 Season Preview: Gloucester

Nickname: Cherry & Whites
Founded: 1873
Years in Top Tier: 27
Last Year: 9th in Prem (44 points), Group Stage Heineken Cup, Quarter Finals in Amlin Challenge Cup, Group Stage in Anglo-Welsh Cup
Europe: Champions Cup
Director of Rugby: David Humphreys

In: James Hook (Perpignan), John Afoa (Ulster), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Tom Palmer (Wasps), Greg Laidlaw (Edinburgh), Mariano Galarza (Worcester), Tom Isaacs (Ospreys), Aled Thomas (Llanelli), Mark Atkinson (Bedford), Steve McColl (Leeds), James Voss (Jersey), Jacob Rowan (Leeds), Henry Purdy (Leicester), Callum Braley (Bristol), Aleki Lutui (Edinburgh)
Out: Freddie Burns (Leicester), Matt Cox (Worcester), Ryan Mills (Worcester), Tavis Knoyle (Cardiff), Andy Hazell (Retirement), Akapusi Qera (In Season-Toulouse), Tim Taylor (Retirement), Will James (Retirement), Jimmy Cowan (Tasman), Dan George (Worcester), Huia Edmonds (Narbonne), Mike Tindall (Retirement), Thomas Young (Wasps), Jonny Bentley (Jersey), Rupert Harden (Treviso), Koree Britton (London Welsh)
Ins: 15
Outs: 16

A disastrous 2013/14 season has seen a huge amount of change at Kingsholm.  Nigel Davies has been sacked, replaced by David Humphreys, and a raft of new coaches and players brought in.  Former Munster coach Laurie Fisher joins John Muggleton, England age group supremo Nick Walshe and Trevor Woodman in a new look brains trust. 

On the field the cash has truly been splashed.  Last season their scrum was appalling so riding to the rescue are Richard “my eyes” Hibbard and John Afoa from Ospreys and Ulster respectively.  Providing ballast at lock is Worcester’s Mariano Galarza & Wasps’ veteran Tom Palmer.  A cheeky bit of depth at hooker is provided by former Worcester man Aleki Lutui, he might be almost 36 but he was always a threat for Worcester.

Outside of the pack the Cherry ‘n’ Whites have signed two outstanding half backs.  Greg Laidlaw comes in from Edinburgh, principally at scrum half but he is more than capable at 10, and James Hook returns to Britain after a spell at Perpignan that ended with the Catalan giant’s first relegation after more than a century of top tier rugby.

They also appear to have picked up a few rough diamonds under the radar.  Keep an eye out for Mark Atkinson the 6”5’ former Bedford centre.

The new signings should shore up the pack but Gloucester will take time to gel their new decision makers and coaches together.  Trips to Newcastle and Irish in the Autumn Internationals will be crucial for any play off ambitions whilst visits to Sale, Quins and Bath in the final 5 rounds, with the Rec on the final day, should decide Champions Cup qualification.

Prediction: 6th

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