Leicester and Gloucester slip up in the icy weather

Given the weather we were quite lucky to see four out of the six scheduled fixtures take place this weekend. Only Bath v Wasps and Quins v Worcester were cancelled due to frozen pitches and even those were close to happening.

Ben Foden

Of the fixtures that took place, the biggest shock was high-fliers Gloucester losing to second from bottom Newcastle at Kingston Park. Converted tries from Danny Williams (Newcastle) and Rory Lawson (Gloucester) kept the teams locked together only to be separated by a Tom May penalty as Newcastle took it 10-7. Glos had a strong team out so Dean Ryan couldn’t be accused of underestimating Newcastle but as we keep seeing in the Premiership, if your players are even slightly off the boil then form can be turned on its head.

The other shock of the weekend (although not for Saints home fans) was Northampton defeating Leicester 17-13. Saints coach Jim Mallinder was again singing the praises of Ben Foden after a stunning performance at 15 then 9, capped with a try. Olly Morgan’s hand injury should clear a path for Foden to take a squad spot in the Six Nations at the very least. Northampton winger Paul Diggin was also on the score sheet twice with Flood scoring all of Leicester’s points. Leicester will be kicking themselves that they didn’t capitalise on Gloucester’s slip.

Onto more routine business as Saracens despatched Bristol with a bonus point victory, 37-13. Glen Jackson scored an impressive tally of 15 points and Eddie Jones is pushing for his inclusion in the England squad – no offence to a great player but I think not.

If an experienced 10 is needed for England’s six nations squad Martin Johnson will be seriously considering Charlie Hodgson. Although he’s been given multiple chances at International level without ever grabbing one, he is playing some excellent rugby for Sale and was instrumental in their defeat of Premiership leaders London Irish, 14-8. Another England hopeful, Mark Cueto, scored yet another crucial try to further press his claims for inclusion.

Due to the shock Newcastle result and their own dismal loss, Bristol are now in danger of losing touch with the rest of the Premiership. On Friday the 13th of February, as the country braces itself for calamity, Newcastle will make the long trip down to Bristol and could potentially seal their fate.

For the next two weeks our attention returns to the Heineken Cup, another competition which I’m sure will have its fair share of surprises before the fortnight ends. Expect more disruptions to your beloved Premiership teams after that as the Six Nations kicks in. This season more than ever it seems the uncapped squad players will have a big say as to who’s still in the melting pot come spring.

3 thoughts on “Leicester and Gloucester slip up in the icy weather

  1. I guess it’s a sign of the times that a player puts in one or two quality performances and they’re suddenly headline news as the new hope for England. Foden is indeed a very exciting player, but he has his faults and needs time to bed into one position (fullback, for me) and given a decent run of games. His defensive play at 15 still needs a lot of work, as does his decision making and kicking game.

    In the days of a successful national team, and players who are performining more consistently and to a higher level, a budding new talent would have to demonstrate his quality through half a season’s worth of man-of-the-match worthy performances, not just the odd game here or there.

    We’re obviously going round in circles with the same debate, but there are a lot of good premiership players. But these players aren’t good enough to put in these performances on the international stage. For just the fly half position, take Flood, Hodgson, Barkley, now Jackson. All are good club players who put in the hard yards, but put them against a decent international opposition and they’re made to look very ordinary.

    Consistent excellence is what we need. This is born from inherent ability which can then be nurtured by consistent selection and a productive coaching structure, both at club and international level. I believe the coaching structure is getting there, but the natural ability and potential of the current pool of players is not good enough to create a formidable national team.

  2. It seems as if we start from scratch with almost all the England positions when a new international fixture block comes in which is why the form players of the moment get thrust into the spotlight.

    If there were already someone dominating the 15 or 10 slot for England then i agree, it would take at least half a season of consistently exceptional club performances to warrant inclusion for a test spot.

    As it stands, almost every position is up for grabs and hopefully in the six nations we’ll see 5 consistently good performances from whoever Johnno picks which if all goes to plan will form the basis of a settled England squad up until 2011.

    I doubt it though.

  3. I agree Justin, but think it’s more nurture than nature. Inherent ability is important but that is worthless without focused coaching and dedication to practice and development. We are not in such bad shape because we currently have fewer naturally talented players than our competitors (based on the sheer numbers, I would say that we are probably always at the forefront), but because our coaching and development is poor at every level, from the high schools and junior teams to the elite squad. And the domestic club structures blah blah blah, here I go again.

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