Glouces­ter have tools to pull off up­set in semi

Gloucestershire Echo - - RICHARDSON REPORT -

JO­HAN Ack­er­mann had quite a dilemma last week for his se­lec­tion for the match at Sale Sharks.

In one sense the re­sult did not mat­ter as Glouces­ter were des­tined to be third in the Premier­ship – what­ever hap­pened.

But the per­for­mance was cru­cial as you do not want the wheels com­ing off at this stage of the sea­son when there is ev­ery­thing to play for.

The sim­ple se­lec­tion was to pick the best side avail­able on cur­rent form and go for the vic­tory at all costs.

How­ever, there may have been in­juries and that would have been a big call that went wrong if key play­ers were un­avail­able for the play­off semi fi­nal.

It was en­cour­ag­ing to see a side full of play­ers who might have had a bit more than usual of at­ti­tude – sim­ply be­cause they are not first names on the team sheet.

These are the play­ers who you want to step up and play so well that it gives the coach a (very pleasant) headache.

There is ab­so­lutely noth­ing wrong with any player hav­ing a moun­tain, let alone a chip, on his shoul­der be­cause he is not first choice – and the Cherry and Whites pro­duced some stun­ning rugby to re­mind the coaches that they are a long way from dirt-track­ers.

Their per­for­mance will have made train­ing and prepa­ra­tion for Sara­cens in the semis all the more in­tense and pos­i­tive.

No suc­cess­ful side can af­ford to have com­pla­cency in the ranks right now sim­ply be­cause some play­ers see them­selves as be­ing on the fringe.

The Sale per­for­mance will have ev­ery­body buzzing this week.

Sara­cens on their patch is a big ask.

They were stun­ning against Le­in­ster and played at a level that was ev­ery bit as good, per­haps even bet­ter, than in­ter­na­tional level in the 6

Na­tions.

But Glouces­ter have the fire power to hold and beat them.

Sara­cens, not too long ago, would have edged the for­ward bat­tles and that might have given them the edge.

How­ever, the Glouces­ter pack can go head to head with any­body and will not come sec­ond when all the units are syn­chro­nised.

Much will de­pend, as usual, on the break­down and the ref­eree’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of what he sees.

There will be lit­tle ei­ther way in the set pieces, but once the ball is away from scrum and li­ne­out, any­thing can hap­pen.

Danny Cipri­ani has the per­fect show­case to sug­gest to coach Jones of England that he might have the tools to un­lock the best de­fences.

He has been do­ing it all sea­son, but it seems that only England seem not to want a bit of it.

Of course he will make mis­takes, but do we re­ally want a 10 who does not make any er­rors of judge­ment at all?

If that is what England want, then se­lect a player who tries vir­tu­ally noth­ing at all – then you might get an er­ror­free per­for­mance.

But my guess is that Sara­cens will be spend­ing more time than usual on the Cipri­ani threat.

If that is the case, Willi Heinz can come into his own and take the game to Sara­cens.

They may just over con­cen­trate on Cipri­ani and leave a few openings for the scrum half.

They will be fleet­ing if they are there at all, but Heinz has the sharp­ness and the nous to cap­i­talise on any free space.

Premier­ship and Euro­pean form are noth­ing to go by now.

This is real cup rugby with sud­den death at the end of 80 min­utes – or a place in the fi­nal.

Glouces­ter have had an up­ward curve in the graph of per­for­mance and re­sults for some time now and they have the play­ers and the team to up­set the favourites.

As that stri­dent voice kept shout­ing from the ter­races for years – “Show ‘em how, Glos!”

Glouces­ter’s fringe play­ers stepped up in the 46-41 loss at Sale

»For­mer Glouces­ter and England A coach Keith Richard­son

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