3 February 2022
Fixture: Gloucester Rugby v London Irish
Competition: Gallagher Premiership, Round 15
Date: Friday 4th February 2022
Stadium: Kingsholm Stadium
London Irish head to Kingsholm – the home of Gloucester Rugby – on Friday night, searching for a second pair of consecutive Gallagher Premiership wins this season.
Irish marked their return to Premiership action with only their second ever league double over Exeter Chiefs last weekend, thanks to a first-half fightback and a brutish barricade that saw Tom Pearson, Adam Coleman and Nick Phipps named amongst the ten highest tacklers in Round 14.
They face a side boasting a similar vein of conviction in George Skivington’s Gloucester, whose record of one loss in their last six Premiership games is just shy of the Exiles’ one loss in their last seven.
The Cherry & Whites have maintained their footing as one of the form Premiership sides with successive wins over Saracens and, most recently, away to Newcastle Falcons, running out comfortable five try, 32-22 victors at Kingston Park.
The last match-up between the two Clubs back in October finished up 25 points apiece, preserving the close nature of recent meetings – with the average winning margin of each of the previous five fixtures totalling six points or less.
Occupying fourth spot in the Premiership table heading into this weekend, Gloucester’s famed pack have formed the basis of much of their try-scoring exploits this season – with their forwards also contributing to their first-placed ranking in tackles made this season, with 2,009.
The boss – George Skivington
George Skivington has seemingly implemented his standard of quality rugby this term following an 11th-placed finish last season, having vowed to reinstate the trepidation of visiting teams that he once felt as a player when coming to Kingsholm.
The 39 year-old’s eight year stay with the Exiles concluded in 2020 upon his appointment as Gloucester’s Head Coach, and after a punishing maiden season at the helm, he is currently on course to take the Club to their second play-off appearance in four years.
The former second-row forward has an array of coaching experience; establishing himself in the backroom staff of Ealing Trailfinders during their 2015 promotion to the Championship, joining the Samoan national set-up for the 2015 World Cup and, of course, being the Exiles’ Defence Coach for four years.
One to Watch – Ruan Ackermann
There have been calls from George Skivington for a perhaps justified, if not belated, inclusion of Ruan Ackermann in the England squad alongside team-mate Mark Atkinson, describing Ackermann as a ‘massive part of Gloucester Rugby’.
The Kingsholm faithful are nonetheless poised to enjoy the terrific form of Ackermann and other loose forward Jordy Reid in the coming weeks, each of whom have been man of the match in Gloucester’s last three outings.
Ackermann has the most metres gained by any forward in the Premiership this season with 802, retaining the joint fourth most tackles with 135 besides Wasps’ Elliott Stooke.
The native South African made 69 metres from 17 carries in Gloucester’s win over Saracens, then bettering his haul against Newcastle, executing 18 forays with the ball and adding nine tackles in a star performance.
Classic Encounter – Gloucester Rugby 12, London Irish 18 – January 5th 2013 – Aviva Premiership
A George Skivington brace aided in one of London Irish’s two Premiership wins at Kingsholm to date back in 2013 – a day where the Exiles secured their first away win of the campaign and ended a four-month unbeaten streak for Gloucester.
Steven Shingler replied to Freddie Burns’ penalty kick with one of his own, before Skivington’s unconverted opening try projected Irish into the lead.
The Exiles made a habit of responding hastily to any sign of Gloucester progression on the scoreboard, and with Burns nudging over another penalty before the break, Irish’s lock was the grateful recipient of some fortune after Shane Monahan’s botched recovery to cross over.
The home side’s fly-half did his part in narrowing the visitors’ nine-point advantage with two more kicks from the tee, but young Tom Homer’s own three points maintained ample distance for Irish to walk away with the win.
Penalties: Freddie Burns (4)
Tries: George Skivington (2)
Conversions: Steven Shingler
Penalties: Steven Shingler, Tom Homer
Gloucester Rugby Head Coach George Skivington praised the determination of his squad to get a win following the delay in kick-off due to high winds in their Round 14 clash with Newcastle Falcons.
“We were challenged on how professional we could be and how focused we could stay,” Skivington asserted.
“The fact that they went through that, came out and delivered in those conditions was outstanding as a group.”
(Preview compiled by Ryan Fitzgerald-Nolan)