In the fourth article of our feature series, Last Word on Rugby focuses attention on the Gallagher Premiership ahead of the Gloucester 2021/22 season.
This edition turns the focus on Gloucester Rugby, who will be aiming to improve on a disappointing 11th place finish last time out.
Focus on Gloucester 2021/22 – Biggest departure
The loss of former club captain and scrum-half Willi Heinz will be big. The New Zealand-born nine grew into a key leader for the club and earned a place in the England 2019 squad during his time at Kingsholm. At 34 his time was certainly drawing down but he will add plenty to Worcester Warriors for at least two or years to come.
Another perhaps less obvious loss is Matt Garvey, who has also moved up the M5 to the Warriors. Whilst Gloucester have brought in Andrew Davidson and Will Britton at second row, they are only a couple of injuries and international call-ups away from a lock shortage, as they have been previously. Ed Slater has been a stalwart in the pack, but his fitness cannot be guaranteed in such a physical position.
Key signing for Gloucester 2021/22
It’s no surprise to say that Adam Hastings is the star signing, as the big money replacement for Danny Cipriani. The former Bath man made his first appearance in Cherry and White against Ealing on 4th September and should be a good fit for the Gloucester 2021/22 backline.
Both scrum half and fly half were problem areas for Gloucester last season; at least five players started in each across the season. The arrival of Ben Meehan at nine is a more than adequate replacement for Heinz, with Joe Simpson, Charlie Chapman and Stephen Varney creating good depth.
Most valuable players
Gloucester’s stated strategy is to develop homegrown talent and it’s clear that the budget is tighter than in previous years. There are still the star backline names and they boast two British and Irish Lions in Chris Harris and Louis Rees-Zammit. The return of Jake Polledri cannot come soon enough for Gloucester, as well as Ben Morgan to reduce the carrying load on Ruan Ackermann.
Another key player will be Jack Singleton. Gloucester’s lineout and maul has improved quite significantly under George Skivington, with Singleton an important cog in that system. Alongside Val Rapava-Ruskin and Fraser Balmain, Singleton will be expected to deliver the solid platform to the likes of Johnny May and co. to score the tries.
Gloucester 2021/22 Gallagher Premiership focus
Gloucester is in a period of significant rebuild. Dropping down into the Challenge Cup this season may help them focus on their Premiership campaign, and get their youngsters more game time. A top-six challenge will be expected, which they should be capable of if they can start winning more close games that are often their undoing.
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