Technology is a wonderful thing. Unable to get to the Gloucester Rugby Fans Forum 10 days ago, I was among over 200 who watched events unfold via the excellent video stream on the club website. My only surprise was that more supporters did not attend in person.
One of the last questions raised concerned Andy Hazell, and whether the club could find a place for him on the coaching staff following his retirement. Nigel Davies played a straight defensive bat, which I believe he was right to do.
While emotionally the fans may be comfortable with former players like Alex Brown, Olly Morgan and Peter Buxton being involved behind the scenes, their link with the club should not be a passport to a job. Nigel has to be happy that they are making a significant contribution in their own right.
What Hazell’s retirement does do is leave Shaun Knight as the one Gloucester born player in the squad, and he’s clear what it means to be in that position.
“Growing up in Gloucester you understand what the club is all about” he told me. “It is a massive honour to be a professional, especially as it is my home city. I never thought it would happen until I was about 16 and I realised I might have a chance to get into the Academy.”
“As soon as I went to the Sixth Form at St Peters I focussed my attention on rugby and nothing else. I’m lucky to do what I do and if I wasn’t doing it I’d probably be dreaming about doing it while working with my dad. He’s an industrial cladder.”
Knight’s father Adrian played for the United side in the 1990’s, with just occasional outings in the first XV. Shaun remembers coming to watch Matson in the Combination Cup final at Kingsholm as a toddler, when he was already playing with a rugby ball. Fast forward, and he’s hoping to play a significant part in the last phase of the campaign after a year disrupted by injury.
” I had a problem with my knee at the end of last season which slowed me down at the start of this season, but that’s sorted now” explained Knight.
“I then went through a period where I was getting migraines from scrumaging. It started in the home game against Perpignan. I needed medication for a fortnight after that but fortunately it’s been clear ever since. I’d strung a few games together until the match at Sale which I missed with a lower back problem which is just wear and tear. I’m optimistic I can be playing again before the break for the LV semi finals and final.”
Knight was 24 on Wednesday, still young for a prop, but he is familiar enough to be stopped in the street by supporters who want to talk rugby with him. It’s something he accepts comes with the territory, whatever the results – and that those hard core fans won’t be short of an opinion.
“I grew up as a supporter and still live in Gloucester, so I see what they see” said Knight. “The difference is I have more inside information than they do…!”
Gloucester’s only home game in this block of Premiership matches during the Six Nations is against Harlequins. Results elsewhere last weekend
were not favourable, especially with improving London Irish winning at Wasps.
The gap to the top six is 12 points, but the team deserved some reward for their part in a real arm wrestle at Welford Road last Sunday.
Gloucester have let winning positions against the Tigers slip twice this season, and on both occasions Richard Cockerill has admitted his team were fortunate to sneak the results without playing well. That is, however, why they are still in contention for the top four.
For their part, Harlequins stuttered to victory over Newcastle last weekend, and are in what looks to be a three way chase for two play off places. Their need for points is matched by Gloucester’s and Knight says victory is essential if any realistic hope of a top half finish is to be kept alive.
“Harlequins lost two big guys in their pack last summer in Olly Kohn and James Johnston but they’ve still got some good players who produce a good style of rugby. It’s been a tough season but as with any home game we need to be winning it.”
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