Interview Skivington ‘chomping at the bit to get going’
New head coach aims to halt Gloucester’s recent decline by turning their pack into the intimidating force of the past
The first 24 hours of George Skivington’s time in charge of Gloucester were certainly rancorous.
His appointment as Gloucester’s next head coach last month is a matter that his former club, London Irish, are continuing to pursue, believing Gloucester are in breach of Premiership Rugby’s code of conduct for making an illegal
approach to appoint Skivington as Johan Ackermann’s successor. Skivington started work at Kingsholm last week, aiming to arrest Gloucester’s recent decline, amid the wider contract-related chaos dominating the Gallagher Premiership. Gloucester returned to the play-offs last season for the first time in eight years and, at that stage, the major overhaul at the club over the past two months would have been unimaginable. Now, Gloucester are in ninth place and nine points off the play-offs, Ackermann has gone as head coach, David Humphreys, too, as director of rugby, along with assistant coach Rory Teague and a handful of leading players.
At 37, Skivington is the Premiership’s youngest head coach by 12 days over Lee Blackett, of Wasps.
head coach to be starting out at a new club. Skivington says: “Measures have to be taken to make sure the game survives and is sustainable. The salary cap dropping will change the landscape of the game. People have to adapt.
“I would like to think that after four months off sitting at home, watching re-runs of old games and talking shop, that players, coaches and everyone involved within the club will be absolutely mad keen and very grateful for the job that they have. I know I am certainly in that position. I am chomping at the bit to get involved. You take the positives of having a rest and spending time with your family, but there is also a burning in your stomach to get back out there.”
Skivington’s departure from Irish might have been acrimonious but he speaks positively about his time working under Declan Kidney and Les Kiss following his retirement, having been part of Irish’s promotion and subsequent competitive return to the Premiership before the season was suspended.
“Sitting in that room, listening and learning, being given more and more responsibility as time went on was great for me,” he explains. “It was a great learning point to see two guys with slightly different views, or sometimes strongly different views, finding a way to align, to get a programme to push on and put the foundations in place for something that I am sure will be successful in the future.”
As for Skivington, having the Shed on his side for the first time – when Gloucester’s sacred stand is allowed to return to its vocal, tightly-packed self after Covid-19 – will be a welcome change. “I remember winning and losing at Kingsholm. When you do win, it’s a big scalp to take and you leave on a high. When you came here and got a hiding, it was a long journey home. Certainly, I am looking forward to being on the inside.”
Ready for the challenge: George Skivington (left) pictured last September when he was London Irish forwards coach; (top, left) Skivington playing for Leicester in 2011 and (right) supporters in Gloucester’s Shed stand