Eyes On: Gloucester v Stade Francais

The 2017 European Challenge Cup final was a meeting between two teams whose historic greatness has fallen away somewhat in recent seasons, with 2016/17 being especially turbulent for both of them. Gloucester had to deal with the mid-season departure of Head Coach Laurie Fisher, whilst Stade had the shock of a planned merger with local rivals Racing 92, with the players going on strike and captain Sergio Parisse nailing his Stade colours to the mast whilst on international duty before the plans were eventually scrapped.

After an enthralling – and at times controversial – game, the Parisians ran out 17-25 winners, achieving their first ever piece of European silverware. Stade’s route to next season’s Champions Cup now comprises of a home game against Cardiff Blues, with the winner facing either Northampton or Connacht. Gloucester’s season is now over, as their 9th place finish in the Premiership meant that their only way of making it into the Champions Cup was to win last night, allowing them to take Northampton’s place in the playoffs.

I was paying so much attention to the game I completely forgot to take notes (rookie error!) so these are my thoughts on the game as well as I remember them after a couple of shifts at work. I am a Gloucester supporter so am understandably disappointed with the result and certain incidents within the game. However I have tried to be as unbiased as possible and to look at the game without my cherry and white-tinted specs.


Fond farewells

Man of the Match Sergio Parisse, Stade Francais captain and still arguably one of the most impressive number 8s in the world, will be leaving Paris at the end of this campaign for pastures new. Likewise, vice-captain Pascal Papé, who was banned for the final, will be retiring at the end of the season. Head Coach Gonzalo Quesada is also leaving Paris for Biarritz this summer. While there is still some real quality left at Stade, that is a lot of experience leaving and I worry that they may struggle even more next season.

Gloucester are also losing a number of players. From the 23 in the squad last night, they are saying goodbye to Darren Dawidiuk, Yann Thomas and club captain Greig Laidlaw, as well as other players not featuring: James Hook, Matt Kvesic and a number of promising youngsters. Though there are some quality young talents arriving to replace these players, the cherry and whites will be losing a lot of big game and international experience especially from Hook and Laidlaw. Head Coach Laurie Fisher has of course already left a few months ago and will be replaced by Johan Ackermann from the Lions, but it does look like Director of Rugby David Humphreys will remain, which I am not sure I agree with.

It will be very interesting to see where both these teams are by this time next year. Hopefully they will both be enjoying more success, but I would not be surprised to find them in similar positions to this year.

An unwelcome return

When Stade replaced prop Rabah Slimani at half time for ‘tactical reasons’, my colleague and I laughed along at home with the BT Sport pundits’ jokes that he would be back on for the last 10 minutes like in France’s 6 Nations game against Wales. I think we were all shocked when, with about 10 minutes left, he re-entered the fray as a blood substitution that quickly became a permanent replacement!

I’m no medical professional, but when seeing the treatment that the prop was receiving for his ‘blood injury’ it did seem that the injury was very minor and in fact something that we would usually see patched up on the field without any need for a replacement. It could have all been completely legitimate but after the French antics in that 6 Nations game, for a similar situation to arise mere months later was bound to provoke scepticism from many watching. To remove Slimani for ‘tactical reasons’ at half time when he had been dominating (admittedly not always legally) first Josh Hohneck and then Paddy McAllister seems an odd decision, which just adds to the suspicion.

I really hope that World Rugby look into this soon, as games will be ruined either by teams cheating in this way, or people accusing the teams of cheating. As I did back during the 6 Nations, I feel that the best way to sort this would be to have an independent medic assigned to each game to assess any injuries and agree that a substitution is needed in order to bring a player back on. This is the only way that I can think for player safety to still be protected, whilst also keeping the game’s reputation intact.

Questionable decisions

This is the section where I will probably be accused of Gloucester bias, so I want to start by making it very clear that I think the best team won on the night. That said, there were a number of instances where I questioned the decision of referee John Lacey and his officials.

Many Gloucester fans appeared to disagree with the penalty against Jonny May for tackling the man in the air, however that was one of the decisions that I do agree with, though it was very close. The yellow to Heinz was not a decision that I agreed with, however in this day and age I do understand why that decision was made.

However there were two occasions earlier in the match where Stade players dived off their feet at the ruck to tackle Willi Heinz as he picked up the ball – clear penalties, both given as Stade scrums for Heinz knocking on. I also didn’t see any problem with Lewis Ludlow’s clean out of Will Genia that sparked a mass brawl just after the yellow card, and honestly feel that the TMO should have jumped in to have a look at what appeared to be shoulder from Hugo Bonneval to the face of Billy Burns while he was on the ground right in front of the camera. Bonneval then got doubly lucky by not being penalised for a pull back on Tom Marshall as he tried to dot down a kick into the Stade in-goal area. Granted, it did appear to be the slightest of pulls but at the speed Marshall was going, and considering how close he was to scoring even after the pull, this was likely enough to cost Gloucester a try and in my opinion should have been at least a penalty, if not a penalty try.

I do not want to say that the officials cost Gloucester the game, as Stade were the better team, but if just a few of these decisions had gone the other way, we could have been looking at a completely different result.

Trust in the youth

Billy Burns may not have been at his attacking best on Friday night, but he still controlled the game well and continued to be accurate from the tee, as he has been all season. He also continues to put his body on the line for the team and is not afraid to tackle the opposition’s big boys. With Owen Williams joining this summer, I think Burns has done enough to make the battle for the 10 shirt a mouth-watering contest nest season.

Ross Moriarty has had a fantastic season! Voted Gloucester’s Young Player of the Season and also receiving the Chairman’s Award at last week’s end of season awards dinner, the former England U20 was a regular starter for Wales in the 6 Nations and was also picked by Warren Gatland to go on the Lions Tour to New Zealand this summer. Against Stade, he had a great game and it was nice to see him keep playing until the very end, supporting Darren Dawidiuk for a well-taken try to give Gloucester the slimmest of hopes with a couple of minutes left. When available, he is surely one of the first names on the team sheet and I hope Gloucester do everything they can to sign him to a new contract as soon as possible.

Perhaps even better than Moriarty on Friday night was his fellow flanker Lewis Ludlow. The 22-year old has done well this season when given the chances and in recent weeks seems to have been preferred over Jacob Rowan, who has often been the first choice at open side this season. In this match he was a constant nuisance at breakdowns and lineouts and was always looking to put in a good hit on the opposition. With classic 7s Matt Kvesic and Dan Thomas on their way out and Carl Fearns deciding to stay in France, it would not surprise me if Ludlow’s recent big-hitting performances have helped earn him a starting spot for next season.


What did you think about the game? Do you think I missed anything? Comment on here or feel free to tweet me @PS_tetheridge

Lions Rugby Ramble

Messy Monday? Messy Situation

The big problem with the timings of the Lions’ squad announcement and their opening match is that there is very little time in between to get the team together. This has caused a situation this week where Saracens and Gloucester have had to release their Lions for the traditional ‘Messy Monday’ even though they have European cup finals at the end of the week.

I understand the necessity of Messy Monday, players and coaches need to build chemistry together both on and off the pitch. They also need to get all their Lions stash, which sounds like enough to fill a couple of cupboards! However Monday is a very important day in the week leading up to a match, so to lose a number of star players on such a crucial day is understandably annoying.

I have some sympathy for Saracens – losing half a dozen of your 1st XV is certainly disrupting – but it should have been clear there was a chance of them having a considerable number of players picked and as defending champions in the Challenge Cup, there was always a good chance of them being in the final, so why did they not request for the date to be changed when it was originally organised? I haven’t heard any complaints from Gloucester, who were missing 2 players on Monday but have an even shorter build-up with their final being on the Friday evening.

The chance of 2 all-French finals was so low, it does feel that the Lions could have organised it better. In my opinion the meet should have been a week or two earlier. More teams would have had their training weeks affected, but as this is in a week of domestic league matches, the chances are much higher that their opponents would have been in the same situation.

It will be interesting to see what effect it has on the performances of Gloucester and Saracens in these finals. Moriarty is starting for Gloucester with Laidlaw on the bench, though I believe that is more due to Willi Heinz being the form 9 than a lack of readiness. Hopefully nobody at the clubs uses Messy Monday as an excuse if they lose their final!

Regardless of the outcomes, I hope we won’t be having the same complaints 4 years from now.


Family first

I’m sure that many of the rugby family will have joined me in sending their thoughts the way of the Youngs family this week after the news broke that Ben Youngs was pulling out of the Lions tour after finding out his brother Tom’s wife was terminally ill.

The chance to play for the Lions is a fantastic opportunity that many players will never get, so turning down the chance of touring New Zealand with the Lions in order to spend time with the family is a big decision. Ben will be 31 once the next tour comes around, and with a number of impressive young scrum halves starting to come through, there is no guarantee that he will be pushing for selection come the next tour. Luckily he was part of the last tour to Australia, alongside Tom, so he has still had the chance to experience the Lions and will have likely considered a victorious tour with his brother even more special.

I was very interested by Matt Dawson’s recent comments that he would have probably gone on the tour but later regretted it. Personally I feel that Ben has made the right decision here and have complete admiration for him. It is nice to see a player putting family before personal gain in a time when fans begin to worry if rugby is becoming too much about the money.

Though I’m sure he wouldn’t have wanted to make the squad in these circumstances, I am happy for Greig Laidlaw, who has been called up in his place. If it hadn’t been for an awfully timed injury in the 6 Nations, I think that Laidlaw would have been pushing Youngs hard for the third scrum half position in the initial squad. He is a great player in his own right and plays a different style of game, allowing the Lions more variety in their style of play.

Ben Youngs’ actions this week are the perfect example of showing what is most important in life. Rugby may be life, but at times like this family should always come first.


What are your thoughts on these stories? Comment on here or feel free to tweet me @PS_tetheridge

Eyes On: La Rochelle vs Gloucester

Gloucester and La Rochelle met for the third time this season on Saturday night in the semi-final of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. After a tense 80 minutes full of deft offloads and huge impacts, the cherry and whites booked their spot in the final with a 14-16 victory over the Top 14 leaders, their only loss at home all season.

For a relatively low-scoring game, there was actually quite a bit to discuss, so I’ve tried to limit myself to what I felt to be the main talking points from the match.


Taking chances

Before kickoff, the BT Sport team mentioned that one of the keys to La Rochelle’s success this season has been having the majority of possession. Gloucester stopped this in the first half, but in the second half the home team had 70% of possession and 77% of territory (though I’m sure most Gloucester fans will agree that it felt like much more than that!). Over the course of the game, they also made over 300 more metres, 6 more clean breaks and beat twice as many defenders as Gloucester! Yet it was Gloucester who came away from the Stade Marcel Deflandre with the victory, as the French were far too wasteful with the ball.

When La Rochelle broke through the Gloucester line, it often felt like the defence was all over the place, but they would quickly recover once the tackle was made and put the home team back under pressure with a quick, physical defensive line, which often led to turnovers or errors from the attackers. Henry Trinder (it’s so good to see him playing regularly again after all his injury issues) was fantastic on the night, winning a number of turnovers and penalties at the breakdown and almost scoring a try.

Despite this, La Rochelle will still feel that they should have won the game, as Brock James – one of the most experienced players on the pitch – left 8 points on the field through missed kicks, as well as throwing the pass that Billy Burns intercepted for Gloucester’s try.

Burns night

Brock James may not have had the best of nights, but his opposite number Billy Burns had a great game. With older brother Freddie watching on in the BT Sport studio, Burns Jr. scored all 16 of Gloucester’s points courtesy of the aforementioned try and a 100% kick success rate , despite the home crowd’s vocal attempts to put him off. Even many of his shakier moments in the game seemed to end up working in his favour, such as a poor cross field early in the 1st half that conveniently bounced into touch when the La Rochelle winger completely lost his bearings.

Gloucester also did a good job of looking after him in this match. At one of the line outs, Ugo Monye pointed out that Burns was lining up in the 5m channel as opposed to in the fly half’s usual position, so that he was not a target for La Rochelle’s gargantuan strike runners on the first phase. Yet he fronted up whenever necessary and was more than happy to get in the way of the big men, one tackle on a charging Levani Botia off a stolen line out specifically sticking in my mind.

With Owen Williams arriving from Leicester this summer, Billy is certainly doing everything he can to prove that he deserves the number 10 jersey ahead of the Welshman next season.

Dealing with the opposition

As Gloucester played La Rochelle in the pool stages (winning 35-14 at Kingsholm before going down 42-13 in France) they had a good idea of how La Rochelle were going to play this game. It just takes one look at players like Uini Atonio and Jone Qovu in the pack to know that they pride themselves on physical dominance to help them win games. Gloucester knew this and worked their tactics around this. John Afoa scrummages so low, it becomes difficult for a larger opponent to compete against him at the scrums. Josh Hohneck and Paddy McAllister also did a very good job of holding their own against the French team’s props. But more importantly, Gloucester tried to make sure that scrums on their feed were over as quickly as possible by feeding the ball as directly as they could to the number 8 (it wasn’t even done slyly) and getting the ball out as soon as it reached his feet. This meant that provided they could withstand the initial engagement they were generally able to get the ball away without a problem, though they did not necessarily have the platform for the backs to create much on the first phase.

They also did a good job of keeping possession in the first half (61%) and spreading the ball from side to side as much as possible in an attempt to wear out La Rochelle’s big boys, which seemed to work as a number of them were replaced relatively soon after half time. In the second half, when La Rochelle began to take control, Gloucester used their line speed to stop the strike runners before they could get going and were happy to clear the ball downfield to force the home team to run back towards their own line while the cherry and whites reorganised their defence for the next attack.

French discipline

As much as Gloucester can consider themselves lucky that Brock James left his kicking boots at home, La Rochelle can also consider themselves lucky to have only spent 10 minutes playing with 14 men!

Jone Qovu’s elbow drop on Willi Heinz got worse with every viewing and was arguably deserving of a red card on its own. But he didn’t stop there and was lucky the officials missed his punch to the midriff of Richard Hibbard, who was unbelievably warned about simulation by the referee! Granted, Hibbard may have – in my opinion accidentally – grabbed the Fijian in a sensitive area, but that is no excuse for his actions. Either of these incidents is worthy of a suspension, so I will be flabbergasted if Qovu plays again this season.

Captain Uini Atonio was also probably lucky to escape sanction during the game, with one late – and possibly high – hit on Heinz quickly followed up by a hit on Hibbard that was so far off the ball it wasn’t even visible on the live transmission, yet neither of these incidents even resulted in a Gloucester penalty!

I can’t really say much more on the Atonio incidents, and I also have a lot of sympathy for the match officials, as the French broadcasters in charge of the pictures we see are notorious for avoiding replays of anything that could result in a home player being sent off. The BT Sport commentators even mentioned this when they expressed surprise at the fact we got to see replays of Qovu’s elbow. Meanwhile, the footage of his punch on Hibbard was not picked up on until the end of the game and I am yet to see a replay of either of Atonio’s challenges!


This was a stunning game, and with so much on the line it was good to see Gloucester hold on under such heavy pressure. The last few seasons under Director of Rugby David Humphreys have not been the success anyone would have hoped, but Gloucester have generally pulled it together for Challenge Cup games, having only lost 2 in the last 3 seasons (at home to the Dragons in last season’s quarter-final and this season’s pool match at La Rochelle), while they are now appearing in their second Challenge Cup final in 3 years. Hopefully they can go on to repeat their heroics at Murrayfield, when they take on Stade Francais!


What did you think of the game? Have I missed anything? Comment on here or feel free to tweet me @PS_tetheridge

The Rugby Hokey Cokey

Back in November it was announced that Gloucester Rugby had signed flanker/number 8 Carl Fearns onto a 3-year contract ahead of next season. Being a Gloucester fan, I was thrilled by this news as he is a physical player who had been getting great reviews for his performances in the Top 14 with Lyon. However in recent weeks there have been rumours that his move may be off and that he will instead be re-signing with Lyon for next season.

What we know at the moment is that Lyon have approached Gloucester about allowing him to stay in France, but that Gloucester have so far stood their ground and made clear they are not willing to accept financial compensation in order to release him from the contract he has signed. While I certainly hope that Fearns does move to Gloucester this summer, I thought that it was worth taking a look at the situation and what could be affecting the relevant parties’ decisions.


Why do both teams want him?

At 27 years old, with no senior England caps to his name and having moved to a team in the French second tier after losing his place in the Bath team to Sam Burgess, Fearns may not immediately look like a player teams should be so determined to have, but there is much more to him than that history suggests. When Fearns left Bath, they had great strength in the back row and even though he frequently performed at a high level, his performances often went under the radar with the impressive Francois Louw at 7 and the media fawning over Sam Burgess. Given a chance at Lyon, he has been able to show his true quality, being named Supporter’s Player of the Season as they won promotion last season. This year he has continued to impress, having carried the ball considerably more than any other forward in the Top 14 and also being the top scoring forward with 7 tries, which also puts him joint 7th overall in the league try scoring table. England boss Eddie Jones has apparently been interested in him returning to England – making him eligible for the national team – and Lyon’s consultant coach Dave Ellis has also suggested he should be considered for a Lions spot this summer.

Why come to Gloucester?

When Gloucester broke the news for Fearns signing, he was quoted as recognising Gloucester’s history as a powerhouse in English rugby. That may not have been the case in recent seasons but they have still often been competitive against top opposition and simply struggled with their consistency through the whole season. With the potential investment from Mohed Altrad, alongside the appointment of Johan Ackermann as Head Coach from next season, there is renewed optimism that Gloucester could get back to fighting for the playoffs in 2018. There is also good enough depth in the back row for Fearns to have to fight for a place, but at the same time he would also be expected to make the starting XV when Gloucester put out their best team. Having played for local rivals Bath for a number of years, Fearns will also be well aware of the passion that fans have for rugby in the South West and will be familiar with the impact the fans in the Shed can have on a match at Kingsholm. Most importantly if Fearns harbours international aspirations, he will be playing in England so would be available for selection by Eddie Jones.

Why stay at Lyon?

Even though Fearns will be used to the Premiership from his time at the Rec, there is no guarantee that he will be able to transfer his form from Lyon to Gloucester. It may be that his style of play is perfectly suited to Lyon’s game plan but not to the cherry and whites, however I find this unlikely due to Gloucester having a number of physical back rowers in their squad this year – Ross Moriarty, Ben Morgan and Sione Kalamafoni – as well as blonde-haired wrecking ball Richard Hibbard at hooker. It could unfortunately be argued that it is hard to make the England squad when playing for Gloucester, with Matt Kvesic unable to make Eddie Jones’ match day squads despite rave reviews from almost everyone last season. Jonny May (when fit) has been the only regular in the England Elite Player Squad since the Australian took over, with Ben Morgan having fallen behind Billy Vunipola, Nathan Hughes and Josh Beaumont in the pecking order. Hopefully, Gloucester’s attractiveness to England selectors will increase if they become more competitive under Ackermann, but as there has been little improvement in results over the last 3 seasons, there can be no guarantee of this.

It is possible that the U-turn may not even be for purely rugby reasons. Top 14 clubs are well-known for offering big money to entice players, it could be that they are offering a much more lucrative contract than Gloucester can. It may even be that the decision may be for family reasons, as he may have decided that he does not want to uproot his family so soon after 2 years in Lyon.


This is all purely speculation at the moment, as far as I have seen there have been no comments from Carl Fearns confirming whether he wants to come to Gloucester or stay in Lyon for the next year, though it would be great if we could get some clarity from him.

As a Gloucester fan, I want Carl Fearns at the club next year as I feel that he will be a real asset. As an England fan I also want him back in the Premiership so that he can at least be considered for the national team. However, if he wants to stay at Lyon then I would rather he did, as I would prefer players who are 100% committed to the club and the compensation from Lyon could benefit the club in their search for a replacement… Sergio Parisse perhaps if rumours are to be believed.


What are your thoughts on the whole saga? Gloucester fans: would you rather Fearns or the compensation? Which club would you choose if given the chance? Comment on here or feel free to tweet me @PS_tetheridge

Time for Change at Gloucester Rugby

What a time to be a Gloucester Rugby fan! After yet another heart-breaking home defeat in the dying minutes, this time against Harlequins, the club have announced that Head Coach Laurie Fisher has left his role with immediate effect. After his post-match tweet saying is was ‘time to make room for someone else’, it seemed just a matter of time until we got this announcement. But it’s fair to say that the writing has been on the wall for a while, with many fans saying for a while now that both Fisher and Director of Rugby David Humphreys should walk away. As a Gloucester fan, I hate to see us going the way of football and getting rid of the coaching staff during the season, but in this case is change necessary?


When Humphreys and Fisher joined Gloucester Rugby at the end of the 2013/14 season, they were replacing Nigel Davies after what was considered a poor season: 9th in the Premiership with 44 points, out at the pool stages of the Anglo-Welsh Cup after a 2nd place finish and out in the quarter finals of the old Challenge Cup. Since they took over, Gloucester’s results in the same competitions have not really changed much:

  • 2014/15 – 9th in the Premiership (48 points), 2nd in their Anglo-Welsh Cup pool, won the Challenge Cup but lost in the playoffs for Champions Cup qualification
  • 2015/16 – 8th in the Premiership (49 points), no Anglo Welsh Cup, lost in the quarter finals of the Challenge Cup
  • 2016/17 so far – 9th in the Premiership (35 points),  2nd in their Anglo-Welsh Cup pool, awaiting a home quarter-final against Cardiff in the Challenge Cup

Other than their Challenge Cup victory in 2015, there is no real improvement in the team’s final standings compared to those of Nigel Davies’ last season in charge. If he was let go due to poor results, should the current staff not follow suit?

Gloucester Rugby is a club with a great history, and should be regularly featuring in the Champions Cup. As it stands, there are a number of players who I would not blame if they chose to leave for a team playing regularly in the top tournament so as to improve their international chances, such as Ross Moriarty, Jonny May and Matt Scott. Other players like New Zealanders Willi Heinz, Jeremy Thrush and Tom Marshall could easily decide to leave in order to show their considerable talent at a higher level.

So looking at the figures above, it is fair to say that action is advisable, if not necessary. But does the fault lie with the coaching staff?


It is fair to say that the coaches have not been wholly at fault. A number of influential players have spent significant periods out injured this season, including the aforementioned Thrush, May and Marshall, but also Henry Trinder and Sione Kalamafoni, who have only recently come back from long-term injuries and now club captain Greig Laidlaw. Further to this, there have been a number of top players who have not performed to the expected standards this year. While he has still been Captain Fantastic for Scotland, Laidlaw’s form for Gloucester has been less impressive this season, to the point that I believe Heinz deserved the number 9 jersey on form. Richard Hibbard has looked good on the whole but is far too prone to stupid brain fades like his costly yellow card at the weekend, which undo all the good work he has done to that point. The 2015/16 season put Matt Kvesic on the England radar and many people felt that he was unlucky not to be getting picked by Eddie Jones for England, having finished top of the Premiership for turnovers. However this season he has struggled to start on a regular basis, with Jacob Rowan having moved ahead of him in the pecking order at openside flanker.

Gloucester have also been unfortunate with a couple of important refereeing decisions at the end of games this season. Dave Lewis bought his team a penalty at the end of their 27-27 draw at Sandy Park by passing the ball into the Gloucester tackler who was attempting to get himself off the ground and back onside. While the Gloucester player was definitely offside, there was no attempt to pass the ball to a fellow Chief, the sole intention was to win a penalty – one of my biggest hates about rugby at the moment. The penalty was kicked to the corner and Exeter scored off the resulting line out with a rolling maul. The Cherry and Whites were also in the ascendency at the end of Big Game 9. Having come back from 28-10 down to 28-24, they found themselves just short of the Harlequins try line in the dying minutes. The chances of victory were ended by a stray boot from a player on the floor kicking the ball out of Heinz’s hands (itself an illegal offence) and then and interception from Danny Care, who appeared to be at least a couple of yards offside, but both these offences went unpunished by JP Doyle. While I am not trying to say that Gloucester are the only team to have been on the wrong end of the referee’s interpretation this season, Gloucester’s season could look so different had these calls gone their way.

That said, too often Gloucester have been in a position late in the game where they are unable to see off the opposition and hold onto their lead. As well as the matches against Exeter and Harlequins that I have mentioned already, they also shipped 2 tries in the last 5 minutes to gift Leicester a 31-38 victory in the opening round of the season, having led 31-7 soon after half time. They also conceded a penalty try in the 73rd minute to lose 12-13 at home to Northampton in Round 12 of the Premiership. Further to this, they conceded a try at home late in their loss to Bath, ending their chances of getting anything from that game. Their wins at home against Saracens and Wasps show that this a talented team capable of competing against the best, they just seem incapable of getting themselves up to play a full 80 minutes against the teams around them. Whether this is a psychological barrier or down to a lack of fitness, this is something that the coaches should have dealt with now, especially as it was not something new to this season. They have also struggled in recent years to drive line outs on the opposition 5m line over for the try, while often struggling to stop the same move being used against them, again an issue that has shown little improvement as time has gone on. Sometimes you have to wonder what the coaches are actually trying to improve!

Their personnel decisions this season have also been baffling at times. Tom Marshall is a fantastic talent but has had a string of injuries since signing for us, so it seems very odd to have him as the only specialist fullback in the squad. James Hook’s chances in the number 10 jersey have been oddly limited this year – granted Billy Burns has impressed, but Hook is still a quality operator – and most of his appearances have been at 15. He also appears to be well down the list of the coaches’ preferred goal kickers, with Billy Twelvetrees often kicking after Burns has been replaced recently. The signing of Salesi Ma’afu was in my mind an odd decision too. He has not really brought much to the Gloucester performances, and is arguably taking up a place that one of our many other front rowers could be covering, especially as a number of them can play on either side of the scrum.


While I don’t feel that Gloucester’s problems lie solely with the coaching staff, I feel that the lack of improvement over the last 2 and a half seasons means that change is needed at the top. With the potential investment from Mohed Altrad, and with a number of high quality players like Owen Williams, Carl Fearns and Val Rapava-Ruskin moving to Kingsholm this summer, I feel that – barring a monumental improvement now Fisher is gone – David Humphreys should leave at the end of the season. With silverware still a possibility courtesy of the Challenge Cup it would be crazy to remove both men at the top at this stage in the season, but the need to improve next season means that action must be taken this summer. Whatever happens, as a Gloucester fan I will be keeping a keen eye on events and hope that things go well with Jonny Bell as Head Coach until the end of the season.


While it didn’t work out, I also want to take a moment to thank Laurie Fisher for his time and effort the last few years.

Fingers crossed the future is bright for the Cherry and Whites


What are your thoughts on the future of the Gloucester coaching staff? Want to give your opinion on anything I’ve mentioned? Comment on here or feel free to tweet me @PS_tetheridge