London Irish v Gloucester

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London Irish v Gloucester

by OxonRob on Fri Nov 18, 2005 1:37 am

Pitchforks or Hairnets on Sunday?

To get the mixed metaphors off to a flying start, will it be thud and blunder and mayhem among the titans on Sunday, or a hairdressing demonstration by the girls in two good sets of running backs?

There really isn’t a lot for the armchair forecaster to get his teeth into, this week. For a start, the starting line-ups have not been announced by either London Irish or our Gloucester visitors. Then again, on paper, there isn’t a lot to choose between us, in terms of GP position, recent results and available playing personnel. Does this sound a vaguely familiar refrain?

Traditionally, our west country friends have been a bit of a banana skin for the Exiles, quite often bringing out the worst in us, just when we were starting to think we had got it together. On the other hand, we have occasionally, just occasionally, surprised everyone, not least ourselves, by beating them, just when they thought they had got it together.

This time around, it should be closer to call, however, for we all know that London Irish have new personnel, and have had lessons in recognising the whitewash and what to do to it.

Both sides have combative front fives, and highly mobile and competitive back rows. I say that with some confidence, for whoever is finally picked will fill their boots well. Both sides have back lines with bags of running potential, and a choice of fly halves, all with the kick of a mule.

Then of course, we have Uncle Ashley Rowden in charge of the whistle. These days he seems to have more good days than bad, in terms of post-match supporter reactions, anyway! Here’s hoping that he spots everything they do wrong and nothing that we do which may be, er, slightly dodgy.

Battle of the Big Boys

The likes of Wood, Collazo, Sigley and Azam in the Glawster front row are not exactly fourth formers on a school outing. However, I don’t see them bossing Hatley, Coetzee and Rautenbach too much, assuming we meet bulk with bulk as, it seems, we must. This particular confrontation isn’t for lightweights.

Gloucester appear to have lost their outstanding jumper, Brown, to injury, but a Davids/Eustace combination will keep our second row selection honest, no matter who plays. Following the debacle in the line outs in Newcastle, it will be interesting to see whether Ashley manages to impose decorum in this department.

Not a pie-eater among them

Given a choice of the lively Thomas and the feisty Peter Richards at 9, and the possibility of Duncan McRae or Ludo Mercier at 10, it seems likely that the well-known Gloucester fliers Marcel Garvey and James Simpson-Daniel will see plenty of ball, although I’d be just as nervous about the lesser known Allen, who should fill the 12 slot, ahead of Fanolua and the currently out-of-favour Henry Paul. Give any of these guys an inch and they’ll take 12. Either Thirlby, of England 7s fame, or Bailey, seem likely to fill the other wing spot, presumably with the often under-rated Morgan at 15.

It is conventional to suggest that whoever wins the forward battle will win the match, and yes, if either front five were to get wholly on top, I dare say that will apply this weekend. However, I don’t really see that happening, with a Mexican stand-off the likelier situation, once the inevitable handbags have been thrown by cher Olivier.

The critical path analysis

My take is that the 6-10 axis will decide the outcome.

Gloucester will probably have back-rowers Boer, Hazell, Balding, Forrester and Narraway in their 22, but your guess is as good as mine when it comes to the starting combination.

In the absence of our own Frenchman and our favourite Argentinian, Toby Booth’s call at blindside flanker could prove critical. Will Gussie get the call, or will Rochey keep the spot? My guess is no change at 6, unless Murph is crocked, which he doesn’t seem to be, so far. We look a bit thin in the natural 8s department with Juan away. Unless Dec has done something naughty I’d expect him to start as he has been playing well, but who knows?

Given his suggestion that Willis is currently good enough for England, I’d expect Brian Smith to retain him at 9, but with whom as his partner? Barry Everitt had an outstanding game at 10 last weekend, but Riki Flutey was only playing 15 because Mike Horak was unavailable. And who would doubt that Mr Magic has been playing a bit well as pivot and playmaker? Critically, however, with Catty playing well, we have the opportunity of having TWO playmakers on the park, and this may just give LI the edge in the outside play. Sure as hell, the Madejski doesn’t!

Outside them? I almost don’t care! Feau’nati, Franze, Penney, Armitage, Staniforth, Mordt, Bishop and Horak are all selected in our 27. All can play a bit, but four of them won’t start. Life really is a bitch.
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by OxonRob on Fri Nov 18, 2005 1:58 pm

Well, it is quite evident that Dean Ryan has taken some notice of this Preview, except in the centre where he has opted for experience over youthful talent, and in the back row where I failed to spot occasional lock Buxton. He really is a bit big to miss, too. (As is Davids - the size of Tim Collier)

Buxton's presence convinces me that Rochey will play at 6.

Mr Ryan has named the following team.

15 Olly Morgan; 14 Rob Thirlby, 13 James Simpson-Daniel, 12 Terry Fanolua, 11 Marcel Garvey; 10 Ludovic Mercier, 9 Haydn Thomas; 1 Patrice Collazo, 2 James Parkes, 3 Gary Powell, 4 Adam Eustace, 5 Quinton Davids, 6 Peter Buxton (capt), 7 Jake Boer, 8 James Forrester.

Reps: Olivier Azam, Nick Wood, Jonathan Pendlebury, Adam Balding, Peter Richards, Anthony Allen, Brad Davies.

What good front row replacements! Watch out for the speed and the hands of Antony Allen (aged 19) if he replaces Fanolua at 12. He has a good understanding with S-D, so he might spark some fireworks.

So far as the starting XV is concerned, it is largely as expected. Given their selection at 10 and 12 I look forward to a forward dominated 10 man game with loads of bombs to 15, and ball carrying by a combination of the back row and 12.

Let's hope our donkeys secure and DELIVER quality ball to the girls, and that Catty and Riki are at their most creative.
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