Stadium: Kingsholm Stadium
|European Challenge Cup||2|
Last year was David Humphreys’ first season in charge at Kingsholm. Was it a success or failure? It was a success that they won the European Challenge Cup by beating Edinburgh in the final; or a failure, that Gloucester finished 9th in the league, and agonisingly failed to qualify for Europe, losing to a last minute drop-goal in their European Champions Cup match against Bordeaux-Bègles (video in French).
Gloucester were also hugely inconsistent. Able to beat eventual champions Saracens at home, beat Leicester comfortably at home 33-16, and beat Exeter away from home. On the flip side, they lose to Harlequins home and away, and losing to Newcastle away. Their defence was the 3rd worst in the premiership, but on the other hand they were the 6th highest points scorers. Gloucester also opted to play full strength or near full strength teams in the European Challenge Cup games. For non-European readers, or for people who don’t watch too much European rugby, many English teams opt to play weakened sides if they’re in the second tier European competition. This allows them to rest their key players at key times in the season, and reduces burnout come the end of the season. This can give them an advantage against the other teams playing in the European Champions Cup. At the end of the day, it’s the coach’s choice. He played full strength teams for the European Challenge Cup games, and it paid off with them winning it. Will he do it again next season? I’m not so sure.
Losing a player of Ben Morgan’s calibre for a majority of the season was also always going to have a significant impact on Gloucester’s chances.
I think the minimum aim for Gloucester this season has to be qualifying for the European Champions Cup. They have a number of internationals and quality players in their squad, the likes of Afoa, Hibbard, Morgan, Kvesic, Laidlaw, Hook… the list goes on. These are all players that should be playing for a team towards the top of the table.
They’re in a relatively easy European Challenge Cup group containing: Zebre (finished bottom of Pro12), Worcester (promoted to Premiership) and La Rochelle (finished 9th in Top14). I’d like to think that they’ll take a chance, and rest some of their players for at least the games against Worcester and Zebre. If they do that, I think that will give them the edge against some of the teams around them in the premiership. I don’t think Gloucester are that far off being a top side, and I’m predicting them to finish 6th this year. They’ve added in the areas I think they needed to, such as signing 3 new props to add some strength in depth, as John Afoa played nearly every game last season. They also need to sure up their defence, and to become more clinical in the tighter games. Hopefully having all the coaching staff sorted before pre-season this year, Gloucester will be able to resolve these issues.
- Strong Front 5 – with 3 new props, a hooker and new second row Jeremy Thrush joining from the Hurricanes, these additions will add more strength to their scrum and set piece, which will provide Gloucester with a strong platform to build on.
- Exciting backline – Gloucester’s backline is littered with pace and individual flair. Johnny May and Charlie Sharples with the gas on the wings will provide viewers with a few entries for try of the week next season.
- Defensive setup – Looked lost and disorganised at times last season, especially defending the driving maul. Hopefully having a full preseason with the coaching staff from last season will pay dividends.
- Lack clinical edge – lost a lot of games last season by a handful of points – most notably the European playoff final. If Gloucester want to be challenging for top spots, they need to take their chances more, and to be able to close out tight games.
- Gloucester’s Player and Players’ Player of the Season. Standout player for Gloucester last year in the backrow, and if Gloucester are performing well, it’s usually because of this man. Will surely be knocking on the door for a place in the post world cup England squad.
- England’s number 8, a huge player for Gloucester, has it all. Man of the Match performance against Australia in the autumn, and looked to be nailed on for the world cup till he was injured. Gloucester will be hoping he comes back injury-free from the world cup and can carry on from where he left off.
- The pacey winger is a player who can create something from nothing. Can scores from the half way line, and can weave his way through defences. If he’s given the service, he will score.
|Willi Heinz||Scrum Half||Crusaders|
|Matt Protheroe||Fly Half||Hartbury College|
|Dan Robson||Scrum Half||Wasps|
|Aled Thomas||Fly Half||Scarlets|
|Shane Monahan||Wing||End of Contract|
|Tom Palmer||Lock||Benetton Treviso|
|Johnny Hill||Lock||Exeter Chiefs|
Gloucester are not far from being a top 6 side. Once they’ve qualified for Europe, I think they’ll be able to recruit higher quality players more easily, and in turn this will help them maintain their position in the top half of the table. If they rest their players in the European fixtures, then they’ll gain a significant edge over their rivals above them – and this can help them move up into the top 6.
How do Gloucester fans reckon their side will get on this season? Would they rather focus on the league, or would you rather target all the competitions?