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.
Fly-half Billy Burns was named Man of the Match after the 35-14 European Rugby Challenge Cup victory over Stade Rochelais on Thursday evening, and was full of praise for all his team mates for the win after a short turnaround.
Gloucester have been in good form in recent weeks, but Backs Coach Tim Taylor knows that the Cherry and Whites will have to be at their best on Thursday evening (kick off 7:45pm) against a Stade Rochelais side flying high this season.
Speaking to GRTV after the bonus point win over Bristol, back row Lewis Ludlow revealed that despite a tricky first half, Gloucester backed their skills to come through, a faith that was evident in a strong second half showing.
Willi Heinz scored Gloucester's second try as the Cherry and Whites overturned a disappointing first 40 minutes and 0-6 half time deficit, to earn a 26-18 Aviva Premiership victory over Bristol Rugby on Saturday.
Gloucester's much changed side had to overcome conceding an early try on Thursday evening, but responded in style to down Stade Rochelais by 35 points to 14 in the European Rugby Challenge Cup and set up a mouthwatering return fixture next weekend.
After taking 11 points from their last three games in the Aviva Premiership, including bonus point wins against Wasps and Bristol, Gloucester will be looking to continue their good form when they welcome La Rochelle to Kingsholm.