Gloucester’s year ended in something of a debacle last season after Brian Redpath left in controversial circumstances, but this summer has seen plenty of change at Kingsholm. In came Nigel Davies as Director of Rugby, Paddy Anson as fitness coach and Ben Morgan at Number 8, a big, no-nonsense English back-row forward. Davies has brought a whole new ethos into the club, illustrated by appointing Jim Hamilton as captain.
The choice of Hamilton is a shrewd one: at a huge 6ft 8inches he is no shrinking violet and will physically demand respect from other players, but it’s more than just his size that makes him ideal captain material. Hamilton has been around the block, with vast levels of experience both domestically and internationally with Scotland and has spent time in New Zealand to enhance his rugby knowledge – all of which should help him mould and bring the best out of this young, intelligent and vibrant squad.
Hamilton, on being given the captain’s armband for the cherry and whites, described it as a, “huge honour as Gloucester is a great club, with such heritage, history and passion.”
“Nigel has brought plenty of small changes which will hopefully make big improvements. He’s been a breath of fresh air, very passionate about the game of rugby and exceptionally knowledgeable, plus he’s had success with the Scarlets so having him here is just brilliant.”
Davies has also brought Paddy Anson a former Royal Marine along for the ride with him and Hamilton is full of praise for his new training techniques. “Paddy has had a huge influence and a high input, he’s been a revelation really and we’re all feeling the benefits.”
“We are all absolutely buzzing for the season, as players we just want to get out there and play, especially after the 7s (JP Morgan 7s Series) showcased what our electric back line can do and with a committed bunch of forwards, we are all ready to go.”
Gloucester have a though start to their campaign, with the Saints travelling to Kingsholm, but Hamilton is far from running scared. “It goes without saying that we are all very excited for our first huge game at home, up against Northampton, and playing in front of the shed will be amazing.”
With regard to expectations for the season, Hamilton is quite philosophical. “With age and experience, you learn never to look that far ahead. I used to, but you can’t play like that, rugby is a tough sport, it’s played with a lot of emotion in every game. For me personally everything is geared towards the Northampton game, all our efforts are for that and then afterwards, we will regroup again on the Monday and see where we are at.”
“I don’t want to sit here and say this is where we will be, as there are a lot of very good teams in the Premiership this year and the margin between the lesser teams and the big ones is almost completely closed. The premiership is an unbelievable league with some of the worlds best talent on show.”
Many players find it difficult switching off from rugby and Hamilton says he was no different, “it’s difficult, when I was younger I found it nigh-on impossible to switch off, but as you get older, although the importance of rugby in your life doesn’t change, you learn to adapt. I have a young family now and I live out in the country so on days off, I spend time with them, which is the most precious time in my life, so being able to do that is great.”
“When you’re on the pitch or in training, you’re 100% committed and focused on the job at hand but in order to get the best out of people you need to be able to escape. When you get older you have a family and your values change, rugby is still 1st and 2nd priority but in professional rugby you don’t get much time to spend with your family so every time you do, you have to take it.”
As he enters the later stages of his rugby playing career, Hamilton says that, “you see guys retiring and you begin to think, after one injury it could end. I would love to work at grass roots level and get into schools and help promote the sport. I don’t think at the moment I could do what Nigel Davies does, with all the continual pressure.”
“But I would love to stay in rugby and give back to the game which has given so much to me.”