In his weekly column Gloucester defence coach Dave Ellis looks back at last weekend's Wild Card semi-final, ahead to this Saturday's clash with Saracens, and talks about his role with All Blacks this summer.
Dave Ellis - Weekly Update
The announcement of my appointment to the All Blacks coaching team in an advisory capacity for the Lions tests has made national news this week, and the attention from the media has been somewhat interesting. The angle the press seems to have followed suggests I am some sort of spy, disclosing top-secret information to the evil dark side.
Well, I must plead guilty as charged! Problem is, I've been doing this since my involvement with the French national team in 2000. It's a role I'm used to and enjoy. Pitting my skills against the world's best is a tremendous challenge and I am sure the experience will be fascinating and broaden my knowledge as a rugby coach. Maybe one of these days I might see light? Who knows?
I travel to New Zealand on Monday next week to meet the All Blacks coaching team of Graham Henry, Steve Hansen, Wayne Smith and the less well-known kicking coach Mike Byrne. I met Mike during the Six Nations Championship in 2002 when he was employed as a specialist kicking coach for the Scottish RFU.
Mike's background is in Aussie Rules, a native of Melbourne who starred for Hawthorn Hawks. He played in the same Premiership winning team as the legendary Dermot Brereton, one of the most successful Aussie Rules footballers in history,
With the excitement of the Lions tour approaching it was ironic that Gloucester faced Newcastle and that man Jonny Wilkinson last week. As usual, the focus was on the England World Cup hero, and although he was far from his best, he still managed to make one scintillating break early on, a couple of big tackles and produce an exceptionally accurate place kicking display.
Despite already having three recognised fly-halves on the plane in Ronan O'Gara, Stephen Jones and Charlie Hodgson, I was not surprised to see his name added to Clive Woodward's Lions party. The tourists will need all their truly world-class players to perform and Jonny is well worth the risk. If he progresses with his form and fitness, I expect him to leapfrog the others to take a Test place.
His opposite number last Sunday was our very-own Duncan McRae, who has had a mixed season mainly due to injury, but I felt his display eclipsed that of the Newcastle fly half.
Despite reluctantly taking over the kicking duties, with the exception of one penalty miss from in front, Duncan struck the ball exceptionally well. His leadership in a make shift back-line, with James Forrester and Brad Davies both playing out of position, was exemplary and he combined creativity with ball in hand, and generated good field position through intelligent kicks
Another outstanding performance came from James Forrester in the unusual position of centre. Having been drafted to stand in for the injured Terry Fanolua, he showed power and speed to crash over for his first score and constantly looked threatening with his ability to pop pass out of the tackle. There is little doubt James has outstanding skills and pace, running wide seems to suit his style of game and I hope we are able to exploit this talent further in his more familiar position next season.
To defeat Saracens at Twickenham on Saturday and gain entry to next year's Heineken Cup would round off the season on high, on what otherwise has been a generally disappointing season at Kingsholm.
Unfortunately our walking wounded list continues with the news that Jake Boer has a broken bone in his hand, putting him out of the Zurich Wild Card final.
It is however, fitting that Andy Gomarsall, one of our best players in recent seasons will finish off his Gloucester career at the home of English rugby, before his move north to Worcester.
Gareth Evans was a first half replacement for the Cherry and Whites on Saturday afternoon, but the back rower's impressive carrying kept the hosts on the front foot when they needed it most to snatch a dramatic comeback win.
After his last ditch try clinched the 42-40 Aviva Premiership victory over Newcastle at Kingsholm on Saturday, Billy Burns told GRTV that all the Gloucester team deserve credit for hanging in there against a Falcons team who really made life tough for the Cherry and Whites.
Speaking ahead of Saturday's Aviva Premiership fixture at home to Newcastle Falcons (kick off 3pm), Director of Rugby David Humphreys emphasised the importance this weekend of Gloucester building on last week's impressive home victory against the Exeter Chiefs.
Speaking to the assembled national and local media, try-scorer Jonny May was delighted and relieved to have tasted victory on Saturday evening, and is looking forward to the European Rugby Challenge Cup final.
Tom Savage delivered a Man of the Match performance against Exeter Chiefs on his birthday on Saturday evening. He spoke to GRTV after the game about the importance of the European Rugby Challenge Cup win.
Speaking to the local media this week, John Afoa described the hard work that the Cherry and White have been putting in and that he is fighting fit ready for Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi final clash with Exeter Chiefs.
Gloucester Rugby return to Aviva Premiership action against the Newcastle Falcons on Saturday (Kingsholm, kick off 3pm), and make several changes to the side that defeated Exeter Chiefs at home last weekend.