Fixture: London Irish v Gloucester Rugby
Competition: Gallagher Premiership, Round 5
Date: Sunday 17th October 2021
Stadium: Brentford Community Stadium
Round 5 of the Gallagher Premiership sees London Irish host fourth-placed Gloucester Rugby at the Brentford Community Stadium this Sunday.
Declan Kidney’s side head into the weekend in the wake of a narrow defeat to Leicester Tigers last weekend, while the Cherry & Whites survived a late fightback from Sale Sharks to run out 33-32 winners.
That victory over Alex Sanderson’s side was their second in consecutive rounds, having picked up a try bonus-point at Northampton and a losing bonus-point against Tigers, before beating Worcester Warriors 31-23.
Alongside marquee signing Adam Hastings, former London Irish duo Ben Meehan and Harry Elrington have started every one of Gloucester’s matches this season and each registered an equally impressive assist in their win over Sale.
The Exiles drew first blood in last season’s opening meeting between the two clubs – each side trading blow-for-blow in an eight-try contest at the Brentford Community Stadium, with Irish clinching a 32-26 win.
Gloucester exacted revenge at Kingsholm with a narrow 30-28 victory, with Billy Twelvetrees’ penalty in the 80th minute condemning Irish to defeat, following another close, free-scoring affair.
The boss – George Skivington
Former Exile George Skivington became Gloucester Rugby’s Head Coach ahead of the 2020/21 campaign.
Skivington endured a difficult maiden domestic campaign at Kingsholm, which culminated in an 11th placed Premiership finish, but also led the side to knockout Champions Cup rugby in the curtailed pool stages.
No stranger to the challenges of first-tier rugby, the former second-row spent multiple trophy-laden years with Wasps and Leicester Tigers as a player, including Premiership titles, Heineken Cups and domestic silverware.
The Head Coach had previous stretches in coaching with Championship outfit Ealing Trailfinders, alongside the Samoa national team.
One to Watch – Adam Hastings
Gloucester’s summer acquisition from Glasgow Warriors has taken the Premiership by storm in his four appearances so far this term, and recently proclaimed the Cherry & Whites’ intentions of achieving play-off rugby.
The fly-half has the second most points in the Premiership (31) to George Ford’s 39, whilst beating Ford’s points per minutes played ratio after playing 96 minutes less than his opposite number.
The native Scot put in a man-of-the-match display in his first competitive start against Worcester Warriors, pitching in with an assist and 16 points.
Hastings went on to add 13 points in the win against Sale Sharks and arrives this weekend as one of the league’s form players, beating eight players and sitting joint fourth in kick success rate in the 2021/22 season to date.
Classic Encounter – London Irish 42, Gloucester Rugby 12 – December 20th 2008 – Guinness Premiership
It was a top-of-the-table affair when Dean Ryan’s Gloucester Rugby arrived in Berkshire to take on first-placed London Irish, with the hosts running out convincing 42-12 victors in 2008.
Peter Hewat contributed over half of the Exiles’ returns with the boot, while soon to be member of Toby Booth’s squad, Ryan Lamb, replied with nine of his own.
Delon Armitage bagged the first try of the afternoon with a typically stunning solo effort, with Paul Hodgson also crossing the whitewash before the break.
With Hewat’s masterful kicking extending the lead, Sailosi Tagicakibau thundered through the Gloucester resistance to dot down and Declan Danaher completed the rout with a breakaway score late on.
Tries: Delon Armitage, Paul Hodgson, Sailosi Tagicakibau, Declan Danaher
Conversions: Peter Hewat (2)
Penalties: Peter Hewat (6)
Penalties: Ryan Lamb (3), Willie Walker
Following Gloucester’s slender victory at home to Sale Sharks, Head Coach George Skivington spoke on what his side need to improve on ahead of their trip to London Irish.
“Most probably game management, we are a team that’s growing and have taken some big steps forward in the first part of this season, but we have shown a little bit of looseness.”
Whilst the Cherry & Whites have impressed with the second most tries and points in the Premiership, only Tom Curtis’ missed conversion was the difference between the sides having conceded three late tries against Sharks.
“We want to play rugby and do try and play rugby, not just kick the ball and hope for the best.
“But there’s playing rugby smart and then there’s playing loose rugby like a seven-a-side, and you end up getting punished in this league – it’s too hard!”
(Preview compiled by Ryan Fitzgerald-Nolan)