Gloucester and France defence coach Dave Ellis looks back at recent goings-on at Kingsholm and previews the Heineken Cup semi-finals this weekend.
Dave Ellis - Weekly Update (18-24 April)
A wet, miserable Friday in Stockport and our players worked exceptionally hard to get some sort of result, but in truth, despite all the effort displayed we were unable to match Sale's cutting edge in the three-quarters.
With Mark Cueto and Steve Hanley menacing on the flanks and the underrated duo of Jos Baxendale and Gloucester old boy Robert Todd running hard straight lines in the centres, they were simply too strong for our under strength back division.
In addition, the international half-back pairing of Bryan Redpath and Charlie Hodgson worked effectively, kicking well out of hand and at goal.
Undoubtedly, Friday's disappointing defeat further illustrated a lack of depth to our squad and the need to strengthen in the off-season. I recall a couple of seasons back when we trounced Leeds by 30 odd points, Nigel Melville had started the game with Patrice Collazo and Federico Pucciarello at props and just after half time he introduced Phil Vickery and Trevor Woodman.
I remember looking across at the Leeds team and having sympathy with their front row, to replace two hardened international props for two more must have been extremely demoralising for the opposition. If you want to challenge at the highest level you need to build a strong squad.
We have had a quiet week this week to 'lick our wounds' and prepare for the final game against Saracens at Kingsholm. Let's hope we can end the season on a high and send everyone to the clubs and pubs in good spirits.
Come Saturday and Sunday, and the focus is back on Heineken Cup rugby and two epic encounters. Stade Francais meet Biarritz at the Parc des Princes in Paris on Saturday and Leicester entertain Toulouse on Sunday at the less glamorously named Walkers stadium.
Stade Francais certainly have the capability of beating Biarritz, they proved that by defeating them at Stade Jean-Bouin in the French league, but on the return at Aguilera were well beaten by the Basque side. Key to Stade's success will be David Skrela who picked up an injury in the weekend win over Castres Olympique and Jerome Fillol remains on standby. They also have worries over Brian Liebenberg with an ankle injury and Sylvan Marconnet has been spared training this week due to a sore back.
Biarritz too have their own mounting injury problems. Argentine centre Martin Gaitan is definitely out of the game having suffered ruptured knee ligaments in the 24-18 victory over Brive. He is likely to be replaced by fellow Argentine Federico Martin-Aramburu or talented French junior Guillaume Boussès. In addition, exciting wingers Jimmy Marlu (thigh) and Jean-Baptiste Gobelet (ankle) face late fitness tests before boarding the plane to Paris.
It will be a mighty tussle in Paris on Saturday, if Skrela doesn't make the starting line up, you would have to fancy Biarritz to make it through to Edinburgh.
The other semi featuring the Tigers and the competition's favourite Toulouse is also mouth watering. Again, much will depend on injuries and suspensions. Leicester's battle at Saracens has resulted in Martin Corry missing the game through suspension, but Martin Johnson will start, as his disciplinary meeting for picking up a third yellow card is set to be held next week. Otherwise the midlands team are at full strength.
Toulouse's big squad is being tested to the extreme. They have already lost Fabien Pelous with a knee injury and his replacement lock Romain Milo-Chhlusky is doubtful having suffered a head injury in the weekend's 21-10 victory over Clermont Auvergne. Another joining the ever growing injury list is flanker Jean Bouihou, however Toulouse have the luxury of selecting New Zealanders Finau Maka or Isitolo Maka, Irish representative Trevor Brennan or French internationals Christian Labit or Gregory Lamboley to fill their back row spots.
Home advantage could swing the balance Leicester's way, but I'm going for a Toulouse-Biarritz final, but it's so tight it could easily be the other way round.
Ben Morgan starts at number eight for England on Sunday afternoon as the Red Rose take on Wales at Twickenham (kick off 3pm). The Gloucester back-rower spoke with Gloucester Rugby TV at Pennyhill Park as he and his international colleagues prepared for the eagerly anticipated RBS Six Nations' clash.
Billy Twelvetrees spoke to Russ Hargreaves of Talking Rugby at England training ahead of Sunday's huge RBS Six Nations clash with Wales at Twickenham. The centre is relishing the challenge of fronting up against a smart and talented Welsh back line.
Tim Taylor spoke to Gloucester Rugby TV after the 31 year old fly half announced that he was retiring from professional rugby. The Derby-born pivot, is excited for what the future holds for his new business ventures despite his career being cut short by a knee injury.
Dan Robson spoke to Gloucester Rugby TV at Franklin's Gardens following the 39-13 loss to Saints. The scrum-half enjoyed his battle with Lee Dickson but was gutted at the result as the Cherry and Whites did not do themselves justice, falling off in the closing stages to the league leaders.
Speaking after the game at Franklin's Gardens, Director of Rugby Nigel Davies reflected on a disappointing final quarter which saw Northampton Saints ease their way to a comfortable 39-13 win on Saturday afternoon.
Gloucester Rugby TV caught up with Gareth Evans this week ahead of the trip to Northampton Saints in the Aviva Premiership. The back rower explained his pride in his performances this season but knows there is still a lot for him to learn.
Gloucester Rugby travel to take on the table topping Northampton Saints in the Aviva Premiership on Saturday. Director of Rugby Nigel Davies is well aware of the qualities of Jim Mallinder's side, but Gloucester are the only team to defeat the Saints in the league this season.
Gloucester number eight Ben Morgan is hoping to start against Wales a week on Sunday, a team containing a number of former club team mates. He told the RFU.com website that he's looking forward to the prospect.
After adverse weather caused the Road to 2015 sponsored walk to be postponed from Sunday 9 February, Gloucester Rugby are pleased to announce that the new date has now been confirmed as Saturday 3 May.
Gloucester Rugby Community department are holding a silent auction for a mascot package for the Gloucester v London Irish match on Saturday 3rd May 2014, 3pm kick off, kindly donated by our match day mascot sponsor Rendcomb College.