Gloucester and France defence coach Dave Ellis looks at the recent announcement of his appointment to the All Blacks staff this summer and this weekend's clash in the Wild Card semi-final against Newcastle.
Dave Ellis - Weekly Update
In November last year I met All Blacks coach Wayne Smith at Kingsholm, who was in the UK on Tour. During the pre-arranged meeting we shared coaching ideas and discussed new skills training techniques.
The meeting was fascinating, providing an insight into the preparation of the world's most famous rugby team and all parties concerned felt it had been a very productive day. It is not unusual for an international coach to visit a club team, only a few weeks earlier Bernard Laporte the French national coach spent just over a week observing training at Gloucester. This sharing of knowledge is commonplace in rugby, particularly when you are not in immediate competition.
I've kept in touch with Wayne Smith since the tour and was delighted to be invited by Graham Henry as a guest of the All Blacks coaching team. I journey to New Zealand on the 16 May to spend time with three of the world's best rugby coaches in Wayne Smith, Steve Hanson and Graham Henry. I will be working with the coaching team in preparation of the Lions series and my experience in the Premiership and European Cup games where most of the squad play, coupled with my understanding of the home nations will supplement an already knowledgeable management team.
My commitments with France on tour in South Africa and Australia will mean I am unavailable for any of the actual test games; however I am hopeful I can provide valuable assistance to the All Blacks coaching team in order to defeat the Lions tourists.
The season at Gloucester is reaching its conclusion and our final league game of the season resulted in a narrow defeat at the hands of Saracens. Our injury hit squad needs one final push to defeat Newcastle at home and reach the 'wild card' final at Twickenham where we will play either Saracens or Worcester to gain entry into next year's European Cup competition.
The weekend also saw the penultimate Kingsholm game for scrum half Andy Gomarsall who, over his five years at the club, has been a tremendous acquisition since his signing from London Wasps. Andy has undoubtedly played the best rugby of his career while at the club, putting in some exceptional performances. Personally, I have always found him to be extremely receptive to new ideas and as a result a pleasure to coach.
Chris Fortey will also move to pastures new at the season's end. The term 'club servant' couldn't be more appropriate for Chris, over his eight years at Gloucester he has regularly put his body on the line for the team and it's sad that he leaves having had such bad luck with a badly broken ankle earlier in the season.
I recall Chris and a number of players initially found my ideas difficult to accept following my arrival at the club along with Phillipe Saint Andre. None-the-less I managed to win him over when he saw strategies we'd developed at training working during games. Somewhat ironically, it was Chris who helped persuade me to stay at the club following Phillip's departure. A decision I've never regretted.
I wish Chris and Andy all the very best at their new clubs.
The news of Peter Richards joining from London Wasps is very exciting. He is a player with an eye for the gap, coupled with genuine pace and his desire to concentrate on the scrum half role will produce dividends for the club and he could also become a strong contender for the current vacant England position.
Finally, the worst kept secret is now common knowledge! Ludovic Mercier has signed for Gloucester, putting months of speculation to rest. He is an excellent outside half and perhaps more importantly an exceptional kicker of the ball. To compete at the highest level you need a place kicker who is able to achieve an 80 to 90 per cent success rate, and Ludo is well capable of reaching these levels.
With Mike Tindall and Patrice Collazo joining the ever growing list of in-coming players and Nigel (Melville) looking at bringing in more quality signings, Kingsholm will be an exciting place to visit next season.
Speaking to GRTV after the 40-29 Aviva A League win over Wasps Rugby, Academy Coach Rich Whiffin explained his pride in the squad to overcome a strong opponent and book their spot in next week's Aviva A League final.
Willi Heinz returned from injury to skipper Gloucester to a famous 16-14 win over Stade Rochelais on Saturday evening. Speaking after the game in France, Heinz admitted the win wasn't pretty but was full of courage and a great result for the club.
Billy Burns contributed all Gloucester's points in the 16-14 European Rugby Challenge Cup win in La Rochelle on Saturday evening, but dedicated the victory to the whole squad whilst also praising the travelling support.
Speaking after Gloucester's brave 16-14 win against Stade Rochelais which clinches a European Rugby Challenge Cup final spot, Director of Rugby David Humphreys paid tribute to the way the team had executed the game plan in a hostile environment against quality opposition.
Greig Laidlaw returns to the Gloucester Rugby squad this week, and his inclusion is an important one after a serious ankle injury. The Scottish scrum half is determined to drive the team forward in their European Rugby Challenge Cup semi final in La Rochelle this Saturday.
Gloucester take on La Rochelle in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final in France on Saturday evening, with the Top 14 side the favourites in the eyes of the bookmakers. However, David Humphreys is looking for his side to rise to the occasion against a familiar opponent.
Speaking to GRTV after Saturday's 39-30 Aviva Premiership win over Sale, Mark Atkinson admitted that the performance wasn't perfect but that the team's character shone through in a game that could easily have slipped away.
Scotland scrum-half Greig Laidlaw is targeting a 'unique' finish to his Gloucester tenure in the European Rugby Challenge Cup final at the venue where his professional playing career began, BT Murrayfield Stadium (Friday 12 May).