Referee: David Rose
One of the club’s more turbulent weeks in recent years, Bryan Redpath’s resignation on Tuesday was accepted begrudgingly by club owner Ryan Walkinshaw leaving Gloucester without their head coach for the remainder of the season.
It took three attempts for Redpath to be finally released from his contract, but whilst the official statement read that his departure was down to a run of poor results, the reality is that speculation linking him to Sale has hurt Gloucester to the point of no return.
The emotional reaction from his squad on Twitter told of surprise and regret, but most importantly a desire to pull off an important victory over Sale this weekend, sending a message to Bryan Redpath in doing so that he has made the wrong decision. Carl Hogg has the unenviable task of pumping up a squad who will also this weekend say goodbye to Luke Narraway, Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu and presumably Mike Tindall as well as Scott Lawson. The emotions will undoubtedly be running high.
After an up and down season, Sale look set to complete their pre-season ambition of finishing in the Aviva Premiership top 6, and therefore securing Heineken Cup rugby for next year. Re-defining the term “transformation”, they will move to a new ground next season at the Salford City Stadium along with recruiting the likes of Richie Gray and Danny Cipriani, making them an exciting proposition.
Whether former Gloucester coach Bryan Redpath leads them forwards is another matter, but for now if Sale can win at Kingsholm then their European place for next season will be decided. They also happen to possess the unheralded top try scorer in the league this season amongst their ranks in Rob Miller.
What to Expect:
High emotions means high voltage, so expect things to get tasty between both sets of forwards. Gloucester’s wounded pride from last week’s defeat to Newcastle turns them into a ferocious beast. To lose once at Kingsholm is bad enough, but two weeks in a row is almost unthinkable. Of course, if they are able to dominate upfront, they have the deadly quartet of Burns, Trinder, Sharples and May to set loose.
Where Sale look good is at the breakdown. Operating with a relatively solid set-piece all season, the work of James Gaskell and David Seymour on the deck has seen lost games transformed into victories. Add to that the boots of the aforementioned Miller and Nick MacLeod, few points go unconverted. If they can starve Gloucester of possession, they will have no better chance.
Head to Head: Jonny May v Rob Miller
Two youngsters with the world at their feet. May’s headline grabbing tries this season against Toulouse marked him out as a man England must have involved come the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Scoring great tries is one thing, but Gloucester need May to become a talisman who when the tight games need winning, is able to produce those levels of magic we’ve seen him produce so often already in his career.
Miller on the other hand has gone quietly about his business. The former England U21 star is a fly-half by trade but has excelled at full back, his good form allowing Mark Cueto to play where he performs best on the wing. His 8 tries this season have all tended to be gems, so look out for him under the high ball.
All Eyes On: Carl Hogg & Kearnan Myall
In this week of all weeks, forwards coach Carl Hogg has been thrust into the limelight, charged with putting what will have been an emotionally drained squad in the right frame of mind to handle Sale and pick up a first win in five matches. If the recent fortunes of caretaker bosses tell us anything, perform well and the full-time job is not out of the question. That being said, Saturday for Gloucester is about damage limitation, along with bidding farewell to those stars who are stepping out in front of The Shed for the last time.
When discussing young English talent though, it would be wrong to overlook second row Kearnan Myall. Having combined brilliantly for the majority of this season alongside Russian Andrei Ostrikov, the 25 year old England Saxon’s good work all year could see him rewarded with international representation this summer. If he can get on top of Alex Brown and Jim Hamilton, Sale will have as good a chance as any.
Tricky. Gloucester are hurting after a nightmare week and sequence of results. Sale are confident but their recent form has been so scattered that they are by no means a safe bet for a win. The sense, albeit a touch romantic, is that Gloucester will rally and bid farewell to their departing stars in the best way possible. Gloucester by 6.
by Ben Coles