Gallagher Premiership action continues to come thick and fast as Round 18 approaches. Gloucester will face London Irish at Kingsholm, with both sides still hopeful of claiming a Champions Cup spot for next season. Jason Woodward and Alex King spoke to the media ahead of this game.
James Barker brings you the latest insight from Gloucester’s media session and assesses what these teams still have to play for.
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George Skivington faces London Irish
Perhaps the most interesting aspect to this clash is that it will be the first time George Skivington faces London Irish since his departure in June. The Exiles alleged that Skivington was under contract and no permission was sought by Gloucester to approach him.
Perhaps unsurprisingly then, given neither club is now saying anything publicly on the matter, Attack Coach Alex King faced the bulk of the questions at Gloucester’s media session this week.
Commenting on whether this would add extra spice to the game, King said: “You’d have to ask George what he thinks. These days professional players move around, George will be desperate for win as he now works at Gloucester Rugby. It’s up to us to find a solution to what London Irish have got planned.”
Jason Woodward on the Champions Cup qualification race
If the reported 24 team Champions Cup for 2020/21 comes to pass, then this match will have a big say in who takes one of these slots. Gloucester opened up a seven point gap from Irish after Round 17, so the Exiles cannot afford to lose this one at Kingsholm.
Gloucester on the other hand will now have Harlequins and Northampton in their sights, with sixth place and definite Champions Cup qualification still in reach.
Asked about this, Fullback Jason Woodward replied:
“We really need to get another win this weekend and get a few more points. You almost don’t look at the table, it is what it is. Every team in this comp can knock anyone over, so we have to string those performances together and get better at taking momentum from the first into the second.
“One thing letting us down is stringing 80 mins together. It was disappointing to fall asleep in second half [against Leicester].”
Attack Coach King added:
“Momentum in a game can change very quickly, this happens quite often, like in the England-Scotland [2019 Six Nations] game. Leicester brought a couple of world class players on, and our ill-discipline and inaccuracy turned it from comfortable into tight affair.
I’m proud of how they turned the tide. The turnover from Jack Clement in the last 10 minutes was a defining moment.”
“The London Irish game is another opportunity to get points, but they’ll think the same. It looks like Irish will be targeting this game based on their selection against Saracens. They’re competitive, well coached and highly motivated. We need to be better than last week and promote the things we’re good at.”
Young wingers competing for honours
There is now an internal try-scoring race between Ollie Thorley and Louis Rees-Zammit to be the league’s top scorer. Thorley overtook the young Welshman and the rest of the league’s contenders with his four tries against Leicester.
Speaking about playing alongside these two, Woodward said: “It certainly makes my job easier and I’ll hopefully be able to rack up a few assists! Ollie had a great game [against Leicester]. The boy knows how to get over the tryline. Then there’s arguably one of the best wingers in the world on the other side with Jonny May. It definitely makes my job a bit easier.”
Squad rotation and injury update
With another midweek game coming up, Alex King discussed the management of the squad.
“All coaches are finding it hard to know what to do with teams. But we are going to put out the team best for Gloucester Rugby. The days of first XV and bench are gone; there are too many games in professional rugby for that. So it’s a great opportunity for everyone to play and test our squad depth. Hopefully Ben Morgan will be back soon to add further depth.”
Asked whether other first-team players like Willi Heinz and Alex Craig could be expected back soon, King said “They can’t wait to be back playing, but we’re not going to be rushing them back before they’re ready.”
Alex King and Jason Woodward look forward to return of crowds
Jason Woodward gave some insight about playing behind closed doors. He said, “it was a bit weird against Worcester, running out with no one there. It felt like pre-season, but once the whistle goes you’re not thinking about anything else; you forget about it pretty quickly. It’s quite nice to be able to hear some of the calls from the side.
But you can’t beat being in front of the Shed, so we’re excited for fans to come back.”
Alex King added: “There’ll be a few thousand at Quins this week, and hopefully it will be our turn soon in the new season in November. I’m sure it won’t be long to hear the Kingsholm roar.”
Gloucester vs London Irish is on Saturday 5th September, 16:30 kick off BST.
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