As we have reached the end of the season for our men’s team, and are heading towards the finale for our Gloucester-Hartpury women’s team, I thought it might be useful to give you an update, and our thoughts on the season.
Firstly the men’s team. There’s no doubt that finishing 10th in the Gallagher Premiership was disappointing, especially when we had been third only a couple of months before the end of the season.
We’ve tried not to use injuries as an excuse, but I do think it’s worth explaining just how big an impact injuries have had, especially in the second half of the season.
To put our injuries in context, we would normally expect to have two or three players require an operation during a season. This season we had 14 players undergo operations, and eight of those were players who would be considered first choice starters.
At times we had up to half of our salary cap spend unavailable through injury.
And it isn’t just a case of having so many injuries; it’s the positions in which those injuries occurred.
In the front row, for example, a team can cope with one of its first choice players being absent, and this is a fairly normal situation for most teams. When you are unable to start with any of your first choice front rowers, then things inevitably become much more difficult. And it also means that when you bring on the replacements from the bench, things can get even more challenging.
Before our Christmas games we had two or three of our first choice front row starting every game, and we averaged 3.1 points per game. Afterwards we had zero or one starting in seven out of eight games, and we averaged 1.4 points per game.
That’s not to say anything about the players who have stepped in – everyone has worked hard and given their all. It’s just a fact of life that if you’re unable to use your first choice players, especially when they’re all in the same group (eg front row), and for an extended period of time, the job becomes much more difficult.
We’ve done a deep dive into what we believe the reason for so many injuries might be. Of course we’ve looked at the impact of our 3G pitch, as well as training routines and loads, nutrition etc.
There’s no evidence at all that the pitch has been a factor. In fact our soft tissue injuries have dramatically decreased since the installation of our pitch and the switch of training centre to Kingsholm.
There’s no pattern to the injuries, and we’ve come to the conclusion that we’ve just had an astonishingly bad run of luck.
We’re not saying that finishing 10th was entirely down to injuries, but they certainly played a huge part. If there’s a positive to come out of this, it’s that it’s exceptionally unlikely that we’ll have the same level of injuries next season. If we’d been able to maintain 3.1 points per game we would have finished third.
Another area which played a part in our disappointing final position was our attack. The stats from the season show that only Newcastle scored fewer points and tries than we did.
The appointment of James Lightfoot-Brown as our new Attack Coach will bring a good deal of additional experience and resource to our coaching team.
James has come from London Irish, where he not only worked with their academy, but was also their attack coach. In fact he was so highly regarded during the eight years he coached there that he stood in as interim head coach when Les Kiss was away for a few weeks.
We will be announcing the addition of further resource to our coaching team shortly.
Despite the disappointment of finishing tenth, there were some good points to come out of the season. Our defence was good, with only three teams conceding fewer points than us. Discipline, too, was good; we conceded fewer penalties than any other team. And with so many injuries it gave a number of players coming through our academy game time they wouldn’t have expected quite so early, and several of them have grabbed that opportunity with both hands.
I must also mention that our total attendance was the fourth highest in the Premiership, behind only Leicester, Bristol and Harlequins (who played two home games at Twickenham). We sold out four games, and our attendance increased versus the same fixture in 21/22 in nine out of ten games. Thank you for your incredible support.
All of this leads us to believe that we are still on the right track for success, and we’re already looking forward to next season.
We, and Hartpury, invested heavily in our Gloucester-Hartpury women’s team in the run up to this season, and that investment is already paying dividends.
We currently sit at the top of the Allianz Premier 15s table, with three games to go. The first of those games is at Kingsholm on Sunday, kick off 2.30pm. We have already qualified for the semi-finals, and could secure a home semi-final with a win against Harlequins.
Tickets are £10 for adults and £5 for juniors, plus £1.50 booking fee, and you can buy yours by clicking here. Why not come along and see how good women’s rugby is? We’d really appreciate your support.
The Allianz Premier 15s Final will be held at Kingsholm, on June 24. Should we reach the final that will be a day to remember. Without wishing to tempt fate, it may be worth at least pencilling it into your diary now.
It’s an exciting time for women’s rugby. You may have seen that a world record 58,500 people watched England v France at Twickenham a couple of weeks ago. Just twelve months ago the world record attendance was 15,500 for England v Wales at Kingsholm. It just shows the incredible speed at which the women’s game is growing.
We’re delighted to be at the forefront of it.
So, a season of two halves for our men’s team. We started well, but ended up in a disappointing 10th place. We do, however, believe we know the reasons for this, and have already taken steps where we can to improve things for next season. We were on course for a top four finish half way through the season, and there’s no reason at all to think we shouldn’t be capable of that kind of performance next season.
For our women’s team, however, there’s still everything to play for in the closing weeks of the season, including a potentially very big day with the Premier 15s Final being at Kingsholm.
Thank you for your support so far this season, it really has been appreciated. We look forward to seeing you at our remaining Gloucester-Hartpury games, and next season for our 150th anniversary.