Having reviewed Bath’s prospects yesterday, Jon Hobbs now looks at their opening round opponents in the West Coutnry derby: Gloucester.
Tom Voyce (Wasps)
Nicky Robinson (Cardiff Blues)
Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu (Bath)
Pierre Capdevielle (Brive)
Rupert Harden (Newcastle)
Darren Dawiduik (Cornish Pirates)
Dave Attwood (Bristol)
Olly Barkley (Bath)
Anthony Allen (Leicester)
Gareth Cooper (Cardiff Blues)
Ryan Lamb (London Irish)
Iain Balshaw (Biarritz)
Willie Walker (Worcester)
Jamie Forrester (retired)
Carlos Nieto (Saracens)
Jack Adams (Bristol)
Jack Forster (Sale)
Mark Foster (Exeter)
Matthew Watkins (Newport Gwent Dragons)
It seems Gloucester have finally decided that their squad full of talented youngsters is not going to win a title so the majority of the backs they have relied on for three seasons have been culled, along with the head coach who put his faith in them, Dean Ryan.
In a quieter summer, the revolution at Gloucester would have been the talk of the premiership world but over a few months rocked by drug and cheating scandals, Gloucester’s problems seem decidedly trivial. A look at the players transferred in creates a squad with certainly increased grit and less flair, but whether there is more overall quality is debatable.
With the shock termination of Seru Rabeni’s contract before he’d even kicked a ball about with his new team-mates, it’s difficult to see just who will play where in the backs. Nicky Robinson at 10 and Carlos Spencer at 12? Or do they go for new signing Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu who failed to cement a starting berth at Bath? If Robinson, Mike Tindall and Olly Morgan get called into international squads, who will replace them?
Aside from big-match bottling backs, last season was also plagued by a failure of the pack to dominate their opposition, physically and mentally. This does seem to have been addressed, with hard, gnarled forwards brought in, in the shape of Pierre Capdeville, Darren Dawiduik and Dave Attwood.
Even so, Gloucester will struggle to compete with the experienced squads of Leicester, London Irish and Harlequins and desperately need to make a few more signings. This will be a season of transition for the cherry and whites, with a play-off place looking just out of reach.
The opening round fixture against local rivals Bath could set the tone for the year. Lose at Home in front of the Shed faithful, and it could be a long one, but a resounding win could set them on a more upward trajectory.