Andy Hazell - leading the way in the tackle count this season
Bruce Seabrook/GPA Images
ANDY HAZELL is the top tackler in the Guinness Premiership after five rounds of matches, figures from OPTA show.
After five rounds, the Gloucester openside has made 60 tackles, a staggering 12 per game and a total of eight more than another England hopeful, Saracens' Dave Seymour.
The top five is completed by three more back row players, Northampton Saints' Darren Fox and London Wasps' Joe Worsley on 42 tackles and Sale Sharks' Magnus Lund on 40.
Back row players were obviously eager to impress with the autumn internationals on the horizon, as London Wasps' Tom Rees carried for 126 metres in their match against Newcastle Falcons, the most of any player in round five. Rees was however just one metre ahead of his team mate Tom Voyce.
Following the Wasps duo were two men of the moment in the centre. Saracens' Ben Johnston made 115 metres in their victory over Bath Rugby, whilst Mathew Tait made 103 metres in Newcastle Falcons' defeat at Adams Park. Worcester Warriors' Lee Best completed the top five, making 93 metres against Gloucester Rugby.
Premier Rugby Chief Executive Mark McCafferty said: "The Guinness Premiership is really starting to take shape and players are starting to hit their straps just in time for the Heineken Cup. Players are also using the intensity of the Guinness Premiership to show Andy Robinson that they are worthy of consideration for the autumn internationals. I hope their club form carries into the Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup matches this weekend."
Defence Coach Jonny Bell admitted this week that the European Rugby Challenge Cup victory in Bayonne was a welcome one, stressed that Benetton Treviso will pose a tough test on Saturday at Kingsholm but that Gloucester are determined to deliver in front of their own fans.
Motu Matu'u is looking to make up for lost time this week as the Cherry and Whites head to Basque Country to take on Bayonne in the European Rugby Challenge Cup opener. The Samoan hooker made his first appearance in the jersey last weekend, and is hoping to contribute to the team this weekend.
Gloucester's attentions turn to Europe this weekend as they travel to Bayonne for their opening fixture of this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup. Forwards Coach Trevor Woodman told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will be aiming to top their pool as they've done for the past two seasons, but is well aware of how tough it is to win in France.
Although understandably disappointed at seeing victory slip away at the last minute, Ben Morgan said after the game at Exeter that there were plenty of positives that Gloucester could take from the game.
Speaking after a last-gasp try from Exeter earned the Chiefs a 27-27 draw at Sandy Park on Saturday, Charlie Sharples admitted to mixed feelings. The game saw him score a try on his 200th competitive appearance for the club, but the frustration from not closing out the win was clear.
David Humphreys was minutes away from a winning interview on Saturday afternoon, but a late try from Exeter Chiefs meant the points were shared at Sandy Park. Humphreys spoke with the local media after the 27-27 draw.
Speaking to the media ahead of Saturday's Aviva Premiership fixture away at Exeter Chiefs, Director of Rugby David Humphreys reiterated that there are elements of Gloucester's game that are in good shape at present, that the performance against Bath was a step forward from Newcastle but that individual errors are costing the Cherry and Whites dear.
Centre Matt Scott, a try-scorer in Bayonne last weekend, insists that Gloucester are taking nothing for granted when they welcome Benetton Treviso to Kingsholm on Saturday in the European Rugby Challenge Cup (kick off 3pm).