It was always going to be hard to top a round one victory over the reigning champions for Gloucester. Two away games against Harlequins and then Leicester have yielded zero points since then. Some fans worry that the ‘new coach effect’ has already worn off. But for Johan Ackermann, it is the Gloucester home-form that should be the first priority for improvement.
The Kingsholm Fortress?
Last season saw six visiting teams leave Gloucester with victories. In times gone by, this would be unthinkable for the Cherry and Whites; from November 2009 to December 2010, they went unbeaten at home in all competitions.
Whilst Kingsholm and the Shed in particular is renowned as an intimidating atmosphere, results suggest it is far from that these days.
Johan Ackermann’s main challenge with Gloucester is to give them the confidence to win games that they are expected to ‘on paper’. This starts with winning home games. Take their next fixture, against bottom-placed Worcester Warriors. It may be a local derby but, this is a match Gloucester can rightfully expect to win and be aiming for a try bonus point. However, such is their mental fragility that a good Worcester start could cause the Cherry and Whites to struggle.
On the flipside, a strong performance, and perhaps a repeat of the 55-19 victory over the Warriors from last season, would be an excellent springboard for the next away trip to Sale in round five.
The 2017/18 Chapter is Friday.
Here's how our meeting with @WorcsWarriors went last season
⬇️ Watch below ⬇️ https://t.co/B87GG6NvOg
— Gloucester Rugby (@gloucesterrugby) September 19, 2017
It would also constitute back-to-back league wins, something Gloucester failed to do in the whole of 2016/17. Without a strong home record, this is unlikely to be remedied.
After the high of beating Exeter, the results against Harlequins or Leicester highlight that Gloucester are not the same force away from home. But a victory over the champions doesn’t also mean Gloucester’s home form is sorted yet either.
The real measure of progress will be against their near rivals, for example the October 7 clash against Northampton.
What cost Gloucester last season was losing every single game against the sides from 4th to 8th places. Therefore, the quickest way to start climbing the table now will be to win these home games. This certainly should be the aim of Ackermann and his coaching group in these early stages of the season.
A Point to Prove (on the field/on the Table)
Gloucester now need to prove round one was no fluke or one-off. A good way to do this will be a convincing victory against their struggling neighbours. To prove a point for Gloucester home form. Indeed, that is something sides who have seen long-term success–like Saracens and Leicester–would accept nothing less.
This is what Gloucester must aspire to.
Read Last Word on Rugby’s match reports of Gloucester’s last two games here:
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images