Gloucester v London Irish

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Gloucester v London Irish

by OxonRob on Tue Jan 24, 2006 1:59 pm

Careful now. Don’t fall over!

Saturday promises to be more cabbage leaf than banana skin, but slippery nonetheless

This game is a ‘can-win’ for London Irish, but with Gloucester six points ahead of us in our coveted fourth spot, it is hardly a ‘will-win’. However, given that damned league table, it is probably also a ‘must-win’ even in ugly fashion. This is our chance to catch up with Gloucester at one fell swoop, instead of incrementally, as the results come in from the two clubs’ remaining fixtures.

On paper it is too close to call. The ‘green machine’ had a slow start to the season, as we awaited the arrival of new players, and then faced the problem of bedding them into Brian Smith’s brave new world. So I think a look at more recent performances may be a more valid yardstick than a look at the season as a whole.

London Irish have lost only three times in thirteen outings since mid-October, against Leicester (twice) and Wasps (just). Our next-door neighbours in the GP table, Gloucester, have themselves only lost four times in fourteen starts in the same period – like us against Wasps and Leicester, but also against Bath and, possibly significantly, against our good selves. So, not a lot of difference there, really, but what difference there is probably just about favours the Exiles.

Well, that’s how it is on paper. However, it foes not factor in the Castle Grim effect. To call Kingsholme intimidating is a bit like describing Frank Sinatra as a singer. The sound accumulates and bears down on the players like a physical force. I am not being fanciful, I think, when I say that a huge volume of Irish vocal support will be necessary if the Shed Effect is to be negated. Unfortunately, a lot of that Irish support will be tucked away at one end, in the Buildbase stand, where the sound rises to the heavens and not out, onto the pitch.

One of the nicer things about rugby is that we give respect to the opposition, acknowledging that however good we are, our opponents can play a bit, too. We take each other seriously, and plan with proper respect. Much needed this weekend, methinks.

A push-over this is not. Nor was our last meeting.

Those with access to ancient match reports will recall that our last fixture may have had us in the driving seat up front for much of the game, but that, had it not been for Mr Everitt’s boot, we would have had precious little to show for it.

In short, we could not turn possession into five pointers, which suggests that the Gloucester defence wasn’t bad that day, or that our attack was a bit naïve, or both.

Flutey played at 15 then, and in the light of his performance against Pau, I don’t see him there this time. His orchestration of the backs may well be the one unknown in Gloucester’s appreciation of our potential. I assume that Catty is fit and in the absence of Franze, I have to believe that the much-improved speed-merchant Rodd Penney will play at 13, although Nils Mordt might nick it, based on a sound performance last weekend. Given management’s loyalty towards winning sides, it’ll probably be Nils. If Catty is off games, then it surely has to be Mordt and Penney – or might we go with Geraghty and… Oh, who’d be Brian Smith?

I think he may have choices out wide as well. Sailosi Tagicakibau has been with us for most of the month now. I have no idea how he is doing in training, but I would have thought that a speedster of his pedigree might be useful against the tractor boys. Who would BS drop to make space for him, however? I’d feel very sorry for Delon Armitage or Topsy Ojo if either didn’t start. So, Sailosi on the bench?

One thing is for sure though. If we attempt the attacking game that we played against Pau, we'd better cut out the knock-ons. Actually, we'd better cut them out anyway. I'd have expected the likes of Patrick Tabacco to punish us for those kinds of mistakes, but strangely, we mostly got away with it, other than getting pinged. At Castle Grim it'll be altogether a different matter! So, no dropped balls, please!

Given the progress made by our pack in recent times, I have to say that I regard the set-piece as something we really should win, as we did in our home fixture. This is not to decry the talent and the threat of the Gloucester front five. Props like Collazzo and Powell are not to be sneezed at. Nor yet are locks of the battle-scarred variety like Eustace, Davids or the giraffe-like leaper, Brown – or even the under-appreciated Buxton, who played flanker last time out. We’ll have to play at our best to get the hex on them, but, surely, our front five are playing at something like their best right now, aren’t they?

Yet again, it all looks to me like a Battle of the Back Rows. Magne and Leguizamon were absolutely awesome last weekend, and Dawson was not that far behind them. It’s tough on Murphy and Gustard whom I know are dying to start, but I cannot see BS changing a winning formula. But Gloucester also have a variety of quality performers to bring to the back row, not least messrs Balding, Boer and Forrester, but not to forget the likes of Andy Hazell. Will England hang on to him?

Behind them, if available, must surely be Peter Richards, now rumoured to have been made available by England. He wasn’t a long way away from winning the game on his own when he came on for the now injured Haydn Thomas at the Madejski.

Ludo Mercier cannot be relied on to play poorly again, and outside him we will probably see Mike Tindall, if released, and young Antony Allen, with Simpson Daniel on the wing unless Tinds is unavailable. Not too shabby, any two of those three. Morgan will obviously play 15, doubtless well, as usual, so that leaves the wings. Doubtless it’ll be two from Simpson Daniel, Thirlby, Davies or Garvey.

My main point is that just as we have creative back rowers who can tackle, so do Gloucester. Just as we have playmakers through 9, 10, 12 and 13, so do they. It really is a question of who turns up on the day. At the Madejski, Gloucester patently did not.

I’d not rely on their repeating the mistake. Game on.
Last edited by OxonRob on Tue Jan 24, 2006 4:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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by Rich H on Tue Jan 24, 2006 3:41 pm

A mouthwatering prospect indeed.
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by whoseyourdaddy on Tue Jan 24, 2006 4:01 pm

I think this will be our day in the sun. If we beat them up front we will win this game like we did the first time round..
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by SwanieBoy on Wed Jan 25, 2006 3:41 pm

It will be ours for the taking, so let's take it this time. I really believe we are about to raise the bar again, which is difficult to imagine how we could get any higher than the Pau standard but we will and you'll see some of this against Glaws. Besides it's high time we won at Kingsholme.
Bring it on!!!!!!!
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