Alongside the coaches, players, fans and pundits, I have no idea how Gloucester have fallen so fast and hard in the Premiership table. And I am not having injuries as an excuse.
Third after five games, seventh after eight and 10th after 19; the fall from grace has been pretty dramatic. And it’s not the first time the phrase “same old Gloucester” has cropped up. Are they serial bottle jobs?
Well, firstly, the players need to take some accountability. No level of injuries can excuse how the side performed against Newcastle and Bath in recent months when the same side came closer than Exeter Chiefs and Saracens did to beating La Rochelle.
Every team has injuries
Every team has injuries and though Gloucester’s list is pretty extensive, their line out has functioned with their fourth choice hooker and their scrum has been stable despite losing a plethora of props throughout the year.
They also replaced an Atkinson with an Atkinson – Mark with Seb – and the young gun, formerly of Worcester, has been a standout.
So I am not having injuries as an excuse.
The side have parted ways with former attack coach Alex King and, while their game never really managed to develop and blossom under the now-Wales assistant, he at least added a senior coaching voice into the changing room – something they have been missing.
Tim Taylor is taking charge of the attack at the moment but Gloucester desperately need a good attack coach to help the Cherry and Whites make the most of their electric backs.
Their maul has been found out and they’re constantly failing to ship the ball wide to utilise the likes of Ollie Thorley and Louis Rees-Zammit.
Gloucester’s crunch match
Head coach George Skivington is a shrewd operator. He is brilliant, but he needs help in running the club.
So what happens if the same thing occurs three years in a row? The chopping block?
Last year the side fell out of the play-offs at the business end of the season and the club have blown their top four hopes way earlier than that this year.
But before then Gloucester conclude their season away to Bristol Bears in a crunch match on Saturday.
The Cherry and Whites need to beat their West Country rivals and hope Bath lose to secure Champions Cup rugby next year, and that’s important.
Players want to play in the big games, in the big stadiums, making a name for themselves.
And there are far too many stars in the Gloucester squad for that not to happen, and that’s before you mention the arrival of reigning Top14 player of the year Zach Mercer who joins in the summer.
Gloucester have a record of one Premiership win in eight, and have won just twice in the domestic league in 2023. It is not good enough.
I used to play there and know how much it means to the fans. They’ll return again and again in hope of seeing their team succeed. But the club needs to deliver and repay that loyalty.
Elsewhere in the Premiership this weekend, I back all home wins bar one.
Bath could do it over Saracens. The Londoners are top of the table and uncatchable, and I have a feeling they will rotate heavily and ensure their big lads are rested for their semi-final against Northampton.
Leicester should wrap up a successful campaign under Richard Wigglesworth with a win against Harlequins, who have nothing to play for, while Sale should topple Newcastle in the so-called battle of the north.
Former England Sevens captain Ollie Phillips is the founder of Optimist Performance, experts in leadership development and behavioural change. Follow Ollie on Twitter and on LinkedIn