Is This Gloucester's Season?
Quite simply the only thing that could be consistent about the ‘sleeping giant’ of English rugby this season like any other season is the inconsistency of form and results. But there are factors that could be in the Cherry and Whites' favour, it could brew the perfect storm to surround Kingsholm.
This is Skivington's 4th season and Gloucester now needs to kick on. Since Nigel Davies took over all those years ago, Gloucester have been in a constant 3-year revolving door with coaches, Fisher, Ackermann and Humphries have all come and gone. The club are finally giving Skivington the time he deserves. Though many looking on from the outside and some supporters may be thinking how that can be the case after finishing 11th, 5th and 10th in previous campaigns, it’s been proven in rugby the longer coaches are in charge the more likely there is success. Skivington had a daunting task and yet he is the right man for this team. He made many reconnect with the club, brought back pride to the badge, young local talent had to be used during the pandemic that will put the club in a great place in seasons to come. Plus, he is honest, gritty and gnarly, all traits’ supporters love seeing.
Without doubt this side could beat Sarries, Saints and Sale with great performances and then lose at home to Falcons, which over the last couple of seasons has become more common, so may not be a surprise. That’s just the frustration and beauty of being a supporter of this wonderful club and like other supporters of teams throughout this combative league. Supporters will always believe, they will always follow, they will always support, and this really could a great 150th year for the club and here is why.
The fact that last season Gloucester won 4 of the first 5 and should have been 5, if it wasn’t for an injury time touchline conversion by The Shed favourite Owen Farrell. The side was showing serious top 4 form but what came after that was beyond disastrous. Only winning 3 more league games from the final 15, the season took a serious nosedive. With significant losses to internationals in Autumn and the 6 Nations and severe season ending injuries to countless key players the squad was stretched but now with minimal league games being impacted on at the start of the season due to the World Cup and then a ‘winter-break’ from the league during the 6 Nations this really will benefit the Cherry and Whites, though this will be the same for everyone else, but more so with Gloucester because the first-choice match day 23 is top 4.
Hastings, Atkinson Sr. and Carreras are the axis that could do serious damage. Though Carreras plays 10 internationally getting him in more space makes him even more destructive. Atkinson is the key, his younger namesake was arguably one of the diamonds discovered out the tragic demise of Worcester, but Atkinson senior brings the dexterity with the physicality, experience and leadership. Atkinson has developed over the 10 years with the club to be the next player granted a testimonial year. Inside centre is the linchpin for this side to get the likes of Thorley, Santi and LRZ in space.
The front and back row have always been areas of strength and with the addition of Zach Mercer, there is even more quality. The fact that he was dumped by England, not a shock really to all Gloucester supporters, he has a point to prove. Potential bolter for the Lions? He tore it up in France, he will be a contender for league player of the season and having him in the early rounds will only benefit Gloucester. One area that does concern many is the second row, the durable and consistent pairing of Freddie Clarke and Alemanno are the undisputed first choice, some could say the only choice. The lack in numbers and quality does concern. Tuisue and Ben Donnell with a couple young academy prospects are in the background but there does feel a need to add another established second rower for the following season.
With the Challenge Cup, a competition historically the club do well in, there is an expectation with having the two French sides, Clermont and Castres at home, Edinburgh and the Georgian side, Black Lions away. Qualification into the knock-out rounds as a top seed is required, seeing the Cherry and Whites run out at the Tottenham Hotspurs' stadium for the final. Being in this competition will allow the full squad to be used potentially giving some players rest, blooding more youngsters aiding the side during the league campaign.
Gloucester supporters will buckle up once again for a season with ups and downs, hopefully ending up with a European trophy and getting to Twickenham, winning the league with a last minute drop goal against Sarries, we can all dream!