RUGBY

OPINION: How a New Coach Can Usher in a New Era at Gloucester

It’s been a tumultuous season for Gloucester, the Cherry and Whites have been sensational in parts but have been unable to string together a required run of results. The tone was set from the first match of the season where, having held a 24-point lead at one stage they succumbed to a 31-38 defeat to Leicester Tigers. Following on from that, some impressive performances put David Humphreys’ side in contention for a Champions Cup berth. However, a tough run of results since christmas, save for a win over English and European champions Saracens, has seen Glos slip out of contention for the promised land of the top six and into rugby purgatory for yet another year.

The poor run culminated in a collapse from 27-15 up against Harlequins with seven minutes to play. A complete capitulation led to two late tries and a penalty as they succumbed to a 27-30 defeat. After the match, Head Coach Laurie Fisher appeared to announce his resignation on Twitter saying that it was “time to make room for someone else”. His departure was confirmed in the following days and the search for a replacement to the former Brumbies coach commenced.

One name whose name has entered the discussion recent days is Lions coach Johan Ackermann, the former Springbok confirmed in a press conference that he had been offered a role within the coaching setup at Kingsholm. Relatively young at 46 years old, Ackermann has enjoyed great success as a coach, having won South African coach of the year in 2014, his first full year as a a head coach. Known for his uncompromising style during his playing career, the 13-times capped lock has brought that steel into his coaching roles so far and may provide Gloucester with the backbone they have perhaps lacked in recent seasons.

One thing is not in doubt though, whoever comes in will have a good set of tools to work with as David Humphreys has assembled a squad packed with quality. For next season they will be able to call upon the services of Wales squad member Owen Williams and Lyon flanker Carl Fearns. The Liverpudlian will join a back-row unit already possessing Ross Moriarty, who has displaced Toby Faletau at Number Eight during Wales’ Six Nations campaign. And despite the departure of Greig Laidlaw to Clermont for next season the backs unit remains packed full of quality with Jonny May, Charlie Sharples, Matt Scott and Billy Twelvetrees providing much needed star-quality.

One suspects that should a new coach come in and establish a belief and confidence within the ranks that there is potential for the club to become a dominant force in England and Europe once more. The club will take on Cardiff Blues in the Quarter Finals of the European Challenge Cup in early April and should they win the competition, as they did in 2015, they would be rewarded with a place in the 2017/18 Champions Cup. This should provide a stable platform for any new coach, whether that be Ackermann or not, to push the Cherry and Whites back into the upper echelons of domestic and European rugby.

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