In the last few seasons, Gloucester rugby fans could’ve been forgiven for getting excited at the chance of turning over the Premiership champions in front of a bouncing Shed (save for last year). This year the likelihood of a home win is about as likely as seeing thousands crammed into the terraces.
The Cherry & Whites produced home victories over the Chiefs in 2017 and 2019, and usually one would consider Kingsholm a tough place to come and play, but Gloucester’s string of losses this year sadly takes the sting away from this West Country clash.
Wholesale changes for Gloucester Rugby side
Not all the excitement is lost, however, as George Skivington makes twelve changes to his starting lineup from the previous game and It’s an exciting XV that’s littered with talent. Lewis Ludlow returns on the flank to lead the side, also returning are international wingers Jonny May and Louis Rees-Zammit, back from Six Nations duty to start out wide.
The international experience in the back three continues with Santiago Carreras taking the 15 shirt. Mark Atkinson returns from injury to be named in the Gloucester rugby midfield, and young George Barton keeps the 10 shirt; the only consistency in the backs from the last fixture.
Gloucester fans will welcome the mass change after the 59-24 drubbing they received at The Stoop last time out; an embarrassing result for any Premiership side, let alone one with the ambitions of Gloucester.
🍒 TEAM NEWS
🔥 Carreras, LRZ & May make up back 3️⃣
🚢 Ludlow returns as skipper
🔟 Barton continues at fly-half
Ready for some Friday evening #GallagherPrem action! 👊
— Gloucester Rugby (@gloucesterrugby) March 25, 2021
Much needed return of the ‘Speedsters’
Any opportunity to see Louis Rees-Zammit on a rugby pitch is a blessing regardless of your allegiance and it will be interesting to see how the young man bounces back from his Wales side’s gut-wrenching, last-minute defeat to France, especially whilst trying to forget about the France vs Scotland game taking place just after this match.
Zammit has arguably been the standout player in the Six Nations this year and has shown everyone, including Warren Gatland why he should be sporting a Lions shirt this summer, but for a youngster in his position and with his relative level of inexperience, this will really test his ability to overcome adversity. It’s a lot for a young man in his position to have on his plate. Can he expel the lingering effects of a most indescribably heartbreaking defeat, and can he focus on his task in hand at Kingsholm? Many think yes.
For Jonny May, the end of this Premiership season needs to be a showcase of his ability. England’s woeful performance in the Six Nations all but played him, along with a large contingent of their squad, right out of their potential Lions jerseys. Ignoring international form, May is still a world-class player that can change the game in an instant.
Pair that with Rees-Zammit and Gloucester have attacking threats from anywhere on the pitch, especially in broken field play.
Capitalize as Exeter’s focus elsewhere?
The Gloucester rugby team’s inconsistency in the forwards this season could once again be their undoing. If the set-piece isn’t performing, which it hasn’t been, then there will be a lack of opportunity to offer regular go-forward ball to the backs, and the two superstar wingers could see few opportunities with the ball in hand. Exeter’s pack has been outstanding again this year, but Friday night sees seven changes to the pack including three first-ever Premiership starts for prop James Kenny, lock Tom Price, and number eight Rus Tuima. There are also mass changes all over the park. This is as Rob Baxter looks ahead to their European Cup last 16 fixture against Lyon eight days later.
These guys have put in immense shifts in domestic games and off the bench for Baxter this year and rightly warrant a place in the starting lineup but, Gloucester’s comparative level of experience in the pack man-for-man is a potential area for the Cherry & Whites to apply some pressure.
It also cannot be understated how much not seeing the Simmonds brothers’ names on the Exeter team sheet will act as a morale boost for Gloucester, with the outstanding form those pair have been in this year.
Gloucester chances? Stats tell the tale
Will Exeter’s team selection, Gloucester’s experience, and the return of their world-beating wingers be enough for Skivington’s men to get the win?
Not impossible, but certainly not likely. Exeter currently top the Gallagher Premiership for most carries (1993), most defenders beaten (340) and most tries (52), whilst Gloucester’s only chart-topper is most tackles (2071); giving a good indication of how this game will likely play out.
Gallagher Premiership Round 15 – Gloucester v Exeter, Kingsholm
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