A move between clubs means new players, a new kit and new optimism for the season. All teams start with the same hope and compared to some clubs, Gloucester’s changes over the summer have been tinkering around the edges.
Tim Taylor has been promoted to backs coach in place of the departed Nick Walshe, and there are only six new faces with one of them, Josh Hohneck, not arriving yet. When he does, as with all new signings, there’s a hoop to be jumped through if you want to keep a full head of hair, as I found out when meeting Scotland centre Matt Scott ahead of the new season.
“I was challenged to drink eight pints of milk or the boys would shave my head” said Scott. “The thing is I don’t drink milk, so they offered me the alternative of eating my age in boiled eggs in 20 minutes. I’m 25…..I got to 14 eggs and the buzzer went. It’s tougher than it sounds so what you see now is the result.”
Scott’s path to Gloucester from Edinbugh is well worn, following as he does Rory Lawson, Alasdair Dickinson – who has since returned north of the border – Alasdair Strokosch and Greig Laidlaw in recent times. Such a long distance move requires homework before a decision is made, and if he takes as much care with the ball on the field you as supporters will have no complaints.
“I knew of the rich history of Scottish players here and it was useful having Dicko (Alasdair Dickinson) at Edinburgh to chat to about Gloucester” he went on. “He had a great time here, Jim Hamilton spoke well of the club too and Greig Laidlaw’s move here has boosted his form, and that’s what I’ve seen from other players who have moved to the Premiership. Tim Visser had a great year at Harlequins last year and Ruaridh Jackson’s game has gone up a level since going to Wasps, so to be the best player I can I thought it would be a good move for me.”
“I was also lucky in that Scotland were based at Hartpury before our first game in the World Cup at Kingsholm last year, so not only did I see the training base for a week I also played at the ground, which was a head start when I knew Gloucester were interested. The atmosphere was tremendous for that game with Japan, and it’s something I’m looking forward to here. It’ll be very different from playing at Murrayfield for Edinburgh, which can feel cavernous with only 4,000 fans in it compared to a Scotland international.”
If Gloucester are to improve on last season’s eighth place finish, the form of the centres will be important. Scott is one of new two faces (Andy Symons being the other) and there is a new orchestral voice in Tim Taylor in an area of the team Scott sees are more and more fluid.
“The outside centre has more to think about in terms of what’s happening in defence and what the wings and full back are doing, but for me the positions are now becoming very similar” explained Scott. “For Edinburgh in the last couple of seasons I’ve played a lot at 13, and for Scotland virtually all my starts have been at 12. I’m happy in either role and although the majority of rugby training you have done before and you’ve heard about before each individual analyses differently and I have already picked up a couple of new things.”
On the evidence of the opening game against Leicester, Scott has a knack of being in the right place at the right time, scoring two tries before the much discussed capitulation, a word Director of Rugby David Humphreys hadn’t anticipated using in his post match media interviews.
Scott told me the impression he had of the squad was one that had a desire to get better. The challenge straight away is to prove that their confidence to do so hasn’t become brittle after one result.
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