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What now for Gloucester?

English Gloucester
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James Simpson-Daniel and his Gloucester team-mates endured a torrid afternoon

The Churchdown Male Voice Choir represented their team in the pre-match entertainment at the EDF Cup final and sang a rendition of "We are Gloucester Boys".

It's an old Kingsholm favourite – black-and-white old – and includes the line "we are respected wherever we may go."

By the time the post-match deliberations came around there was little respect for a Gloucester team that had been utterly thumped by Cardiff Blues 50-12.

Were there any positives? Well, the Welsh side's Gloucester-bound fly-half Nicky Robinson looked pretty good, although behind a pack that dominant even Anne Robinson would look good.

Ryan has seen his team lose big matches to the extent that it has almost become a ritual. But this was ritual humiliation and players are set to be sacrificed.

So who are Gloucester's weakest links?

"Previous encounters have been about learning, today was about reality. We deserve credit for reaching finals year-in year-out, but I don’t want to keep losing them," said Ryan, hunched over the microphone at a top table with his arms crossed rigid.

"You have got to recognise when the learning process is over and I think everyone at this club is at that point.

"We will look at taking the club in a different direction with a different group of people in the next year. We must address the problem with recruitment."

Captain Gareth Delve told BBC Sport the blame for defeat fell squarely on the players, but surely Ryan has to shoulder some of the blame for this one.

On the pitch against the Blues tactics around the breakdown looked as threadbare as Gloucester's tackles. Off it, recruitment alone seems to be a major problem.

Take fly-half as an example. The club are collecting them with all the apparent forethought that a supporter at Twickenham gathers pints at the bar: "Cheers love. Give me one of those trays and I’ll take four."

Robinson is the third playmaker Ryan has signed in less than a year which seems to suggest there is no coherent plan?

If there is it is hard to see how it involved Olly Barkley, last summer's big-name signing. He had been in barnstorming form for Bath but looks bewildered at Gloucester this term and is set to head back to The Rec in the summer.

If that was a one-off you could put it down as one of those things. But he is the second international to go down that path in two years following Chris Paterson's now you see him, now you don't stay at Kingsholm in the 2007/08 season.

How do you manage to sell a club to two internationals but then fail to incorporate them so miserably?

As well as Barkley, Willie Walker, Carlos Spencer and Ryan Lamb have played in the number 10 shirt this season.

Walker was loaned to Worcester to make way for Spencer after the mercurial former All Black arrived in February on a 17-month contract.

Ryan hailed Spencer, who took the number of internationals on the books to 25, as a man who could change the team "dynamic".

But for the seven games he has played the winning percentage is exactly the same as it was for the seven games before his arrival - 43%.

And that supposed 17-month contract is actually for five months. More mixed messages and muddled thinking.

"I've said to Gloucester I just want to finish up the five months and see where it takes me," Spencer recently announced.

"My wife's missing home and nagging me every day that she wants to go home. We'll see what happens. I've not made decisions. I'm happy cruising along."

Which leaves us with Lamb. His performances through the winter led Ryan to lure Spencer, but because the New Zealander was cup-tied Lamb came back into the fold in recent weeks.

After his efforts at Twickenham it can safely be assumed he will be leaving that fold in the summer if clubs have not been put off following a performance that included the usual sprinkling of panache, petulance and plain poor rugby.

When Ryan said he had "kept faith with individuals hoping they'd improve", you could not help but think of Lamb. And his midfield colleagues Anthony Allen and James Simpson-Daniel.

Three exciting players who have long-been hailed as future England stars and three players who have embodied Gloucester's failings in the biggest games.

This was the first time they had been selected as a unit in midfield this term, but they have previous having lined up and lost together in the 10, 12 and 13 shirts against Leicester in the Premiership play-offs and Munster in the Heineken Cup last season and the Tigers in the Premiership final two years ago.

"This side will get better," Ryan promised after that last embarrassing trip to Twickenham when they lost 44-16.

"This is not the end of the journey for this side," he added, and as if to prove it, nine players who started two years ago also ran out against the Blues.

On that day they could not cope with Alesana Tuilagi and this time they struggled with the all-round physicality of a Blues side that included a host of potential Lions tourists.

On both occasions injury forced Ryan's hand, but he must surely have sent out his Lilliputians one last time, with Worcester and London Irish reportedly interested in Lamb and Leicester linked with Allen.

Elsewhere, Barkley’s Bath return is an open secret, Carlos Nieto is off to Saracens, Spencer's wife's plans remain a mystery and scrum-half Gareth Cooper is joining the Blues in exchange for Robinson.

The journey's most definitely over now, but who else should be heading for the exit and what will the Gloucester team look like next season?

And more significantly, is Ryan the man to shape that new-look Gloucester?

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posted Apr 27, 2009

Your best scrumhalf - Lewis - got injured as well.

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posted Apr 27, 2009

Cohen is I believe already coming back- was it Sale he signed for a a few weeks ago?

Thinking of Englishmen in France- in view of our long chat about SRs- I keep forgetting the name of our English/Norwegian/Sale number 7 who has continued his career over there. A strong candidate for going the same way as his brother- the Norwegian captain who plays second row for an English non GP Club.

Gloucester seem to have not really got over the years catching up with Buxton, and even more Jake Boer.. And Strokosch was lost to Scotland and injury.

But to return to the general point I made about Ryan and violence. I have to wonder whether there is a connection between this misunderstanding/confusion and the number of injuries that Gloucester seem to pick up. Funnyexiled scot is probably going to destroy my theory by saying that Gloucs players are no more injury prone than others according to the statistics.

But I think that many of the posts have stressed the lack or real ball-carriers both in the forwards and the backs. There is an art and a state of mind in driving the ball into a defensive wall, as well as a physical requirement. When you merely demand that players- anyone in the fifteen- attempts to do this just as an act of will and courage without those requisite requirements you heighten the risk of injury.

My first sight of Ryan Lamb last-year was incredibly exciting- Charlie Hodgson plus confidence if not arrogance; but you can not have a brillant general with no troops!

By the way Nigrugthug- having watched some week-end highlights, and with my comments on Tait in your team in mind, I was really impressed with Turner-Hall on Saturday, and his clear and quick picking up of support players.. Not exactly Will Greenwood perhaps [I agree with you on how much England owed to him] but a different combination of physicality with good head and hands...Perhaps an understudy to Flutey, offering something different, but able to unleash the attacking potential of your back-three runners.

Cass

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comment by U8659606

posted Apr 27, 2009

"Funnyexiled scot is probably going to destroy my theory by saying that Gloucs players are no more injury prone than others according to the statistics."

Not really. They certainly seem to lose key players at key times in particular.

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posted Apr 27, 2009


Thanks FES

By the way I have just seen Magnus Lund's name elsewhere.. Surely his Viking genes are going to beef him up sooner of later.

Cass

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posted Apr 28, 2009

Cass/Fes.

Lund was never given a chance frankly.

Very useful in the line-out.

England's backrow in the WC final was Corry, Easter, Moody.

I have always wondered if had Croft played with Corry in the second row with Shaw, what would have happened.

I was advocating Cippers, Haskell's, and Croft's inclusion in the WC squad.

As regards Turner-Hall, I have been keepinbg an eye on him for over two years.

Did I not include him in my future promising players list???

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posted Apr 28, 2009

Nigrugthug

I was also in favour of Corry in the second row. One of Corry's great moments in an England shirt was holding up a massive French forward over the line when Shaw had been sent-off in Paris; probably England re-jigged to send Corry on.. Corry is a good example of the fact that line-out these days is not all about being tall; and 6'3.5"-6'4" is still really the optimum height for really strong driving... Perhaps I have mentionned my fond memory of an England trial match when Dooley went on the charge, and Chilcott called "Mine!" and logged him.

Was it back in the Ashton era that Corry announced his retirement from international rugby to focus of going out on a high with Leicester?

Cass

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posted Apr 28, 2009

Probably it was.

Corry is 6ft 5 inches.

You mentioning Dooley reminded me of another Lions disgrace when in 1993 he returned to England as his father was dieing to be replaced by MJ in 1993.

However, the 4 home unions decided that they would not finance his return as he had been replaced!!!

This despite the NZRU saying it was all right.

The bizarre thing being that the second team was crumbling as a few lucky scottish players gave up.

But how disgraceful was it to prevent Dooley returning?

And playing for the Lions is the pinnacle for a player?????!!!!

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posted Apr 28, 2009

Nigrugthug

The point I was making about height is unaffected by another disgreement about a players height. There are those who might argue that ideally Corry is not tall enough to be an international SR. The main point about height is that it can be useful in the line-out; but Corry has been 100% secure- especially front of the line whenever I have seen him.

And my recollection is that when he went to Argentina as essentially a six (back in West Country -Bristol days?)his height was given as 6'3" to 6'4".

I am not sure that there is or has been a rugby equivalent to Bill Frindle to cut through the spin that is sometimes used.

Cass

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posted Apr 29, 2009

Not trying to score points - just trying to be helpful.

I looked up the Leicester website and the info is as follows.

Croft, Corry - listed as 1.96m - 6ft.5

Kay, Deacon - 1.98, 6ft.6

Pienaar - 1.93m, 6.4

Crane, Moody - 1.91, 6.3

Blaze - 2.01, 6.7.

As you know height is not everything.

Technique, athleticism, judgement, observation, weight, enthusiasm, team play also play a part.

I noticed Stankovic can play for England as I really rate him.

Another lock to look out for - in fact two - are Lawes and Cannon at Northampton.

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posted Apr 29, 2009

Nigrugthug

Thanks for the figures-- but over the years I have noticed that people's published physiques seem to change at times according to the image that is required. Life-I fear- has taught me to take little on trust.

Anyway such statistics can only ever be pointers-- like being a leading points scorer. Not all scores are equally meritable.

Cass

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