After a close encounter with Northampton Saints at Kingsholm last weekend in which they come back from 20-7 points down at halftime, Gloucester Rugby takes to the road in round 20 of the Gallagher Premiership. Head Coach George Skivington has been speaking to the media ahead of his team’s visit to the AJ Bell Stadium to face the Sale Sharks. Here’s what he had to say ahead of the game as well as a few injuries and international call ups updates.
In recent seasons, Gloucester has won just twice in their past five visits to the AJ Bell Stadium with the last win coming during the 2019/20 season. The Sharks meanwhile have only lost just once at home this season and boast teams such as Harlequins and Leicester Tigers on the tried and failed to beat them at the home record this season. With that said, it’s with good reason that Skivington is all too aware of how tough Saturday’s fixture will be but says home or away is no major drama for his Cherry & White’s.
No drama for Gloucester Rugby on the road or at home
𝗕𝗜𝗚 𝗪! ✅
Thank you for your support! 🍒
— Gloucester Rugby (@gloucesterrugby) March 5, 2022
The head coach on the game
”I think it’s a tough place to go, undoubtedly, they’re a good outfit, they’ve been on good form but we’re very focused on what we are doing. I don’t think home or away is a major drama for us these days.”
“I think the boys are very very in tune with what they’ve got to go when they go away from home and their processes are in place. We’ve learnt some massive lessons this month about going to tough places. It’s a real big challenge for us but I enjoy these big challenges for the group.”
Those lessons that Skivington mentioned came in the shape of Exeter Chiefs and Leicester Tigers, however, prior to those defeats, Gloucester had only lost once away from home and even with those two defeats, only those same two teams have a better record away from home. As for Sale, they currently hold the fourth-best home record points-wise in the Gallagher Premiership but with that one defeat, their home form is only bettered by the Tigers, who are yet to lose at home this season.
Speaking on the game itself, Skivington focused on an area in particular when asked about how the two teams will match up and especially in the two front eights. However, as much as he is aware of the Sale pack, it’s his own team the focus is on and the Gloucester Head Coach said that his team will focus on the processes and they are aware of the challenge upfront.
George Skivington’s game analysis
”They are a big pack, it functions slightly different to ours but it’s effective in a different way so we’re very much focusing on our processes, we’ve been pretty good upfront all year and we know the challenge that’s in front of us.”
Adding: “We’ve watched the videos and the analysis so the boys have seen what they need to see now so we’ve got full respect for what they are but we’re very much focused on our processes and systems. We’re very confident with our systems and if we get it right then we can deliver what we need to deliver.”
In terms of the much-spoken-about Gloucester pack, Saturday’s game against Northampton saw Skivington make two changes to his front row from the previous week’s defeat at Leicester. Harry Elrington and Santiago Socino came in to start alongside Fraser Balmain in the front row, a move in which paid off greatly as the Gloucester pack shone once again as it has so often this season.
Saints go long with a line-out on their line, and it falls into the hands of Harry Elrington to score!
— Gloucester Rugby (@gloucesterrugby) March 5, 2022
Harry Elrington opened the afternoon’s scoring from a quick-thinking line-out steal while Juan Pablo Socino (arguably scored) had a big hand in his side-winning try. As for Fraser Balmain, he made a very important tackle with time running out in the second half to help Gloucester seal victory against the Saints.
This was something of which I asked Skivington about and how important those three were in his team’s win as well as how pleased he was with his front eight.
George Skivington on the improved Gloucester Rugby and their front row
He told me:
”I think the front row is an area we’ve really sort of transformed, I think those guys are definitely a lot fitter than they had been previously and a lot of that is down to Dan (Tobin).”
”Our scrum has been outstanding now for numerous months, Trev’s (Woodman) (main photo above) put a huge amount of work into that and those boys have been dominant. Even at Leicester, we were really dominant at the scrum and I think we have to keep doing that to change perception obviously because the scrum hasn’t been an area of dominance previously.”
Gloucester Rugby and the plan for the upcoming weekend against Sale
Looking ahead to what Gloucester Rugby may look like for this weekend’s trip to Sale on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. GMT, Skivington issued an update on a few faces who may or may not be involved due to injury and also international call-ups. It was confirmed that Louis Rees-Zammit is currently away with Wales ahead of their clash with France in the Guinness Six Nations on Friday night, while Adam Hastings is also away with Scotland as they prepare to take on Italy.
Should Hastings not return from the Scotland camp, youngster George Barton could be in contention as Skivington told me: Yeah he’s in contention yes, we also got Billy (Twelvetrees), we’ve got Santi (Carreras), who’s played 10 for Argentina as well so we’ve got a good few to choose from but they are all in contention.
A notable in that 10 position who won’t be in contention however is Lloyd Evans. It was confirmed he is still injured. Meanwhile, the Gloucester Head Coach did hint that Centre Mark Atkinson could possibly return to the team after “he and a few others would be evaluated to see where they are at in their different injury protocols later today (Tuesday afternoon).”
A win for the Cherry and White will definitely give their hopes of a top-four finish in the Gallagher Premiership another big boost. After already beating Sale earlier in the season at Kingsholm 33-32, Gloucester will already be familiar with the hosts. However, Saturday’s game is sure to be another big test for Skivington’s men.
Main Photo Credit:
Embed from Getty Images