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What the Butler Saw: Munster was better, but it still wasn't good enough from Gloucester

By The Citizen  |  Posted: January 13, 2014

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YES, I saw more fight from Gloucester and yes, I saw more physicality, more pace and more penetration, but they were still soundly beaten at home by a team unlikely to be challenging for Heineken Cup honours this season.Apart from a few minutes after half time you never felt the Cherry and Whites had the beating of Munster. The Irish province played with more poise and strength and you always felt they had that extra gear.To say ‘it was better than last week’ is fine, but that’s not really saying much when last week was as poor as it was against Saracens.The cold, hard fact is that this was Gloucester’s seventh home defeat of the season in all competitions. Previously if they lost one of two it was seen as a disaster. If the performance against Munster is the sign of better things to come then excellent, but there have been too many false dawns this season to start getting excited.The major bright sparks from the fixture were the performances of Sila Puafisi, Elliot Stooke and Gareth Evans up front and Dan Robson, Freddie Burns and Charlie Sharples in the backs.Puafisi was excellent in the loose and seems to have a positive impact on the Gloucester scrum when he is on the field. It’s a shame he can’t last 80 minutes because while many were underwhelmed when his arrival was announced, he has certainly grown into his cherry and white shirt.Stooke has had a baptism of fire as a youngster up front this season, but in the long run it will do him the world of good. The fact that he has absorbed so much punishment over the last few months and can still come out and produce that type of performance is a sign of true character – a commodity you can’t coach into a player, they either have it or they don’t.With Ben Morgan and Siona Kalamafoni ahead of him in the pecking order, Evans was always going to struggle for game time this season. But he justified what looked a risky selection by Nigel Davies with a fine performance. That has to go down as excellent man management from the Gloucester boss.I have been outspoken in favour of Jimmy Cowan all season, but the All Black has not been consistent enough in recent weeks and for me Dan Robson now holds the number nine jersey after a string of stand-out performances.It was Robson’s dart that created Sharples’ fine try just before half time. The England winger finally found the form that elevated him to international rugby in 2012. Hopefully he can show some consistency now and be part of a Gloucester resurgence.And the much-maligned Burns distributed excellently throughout the game, slotted his only kick off the tee (after Billy Twelvetrees had missed two crucial efforts) and generally ran the game like he hasn’t all season.Numerous positives for the Cherry and Whites, all outdone by the negative scoreline.PERPIGNAN 'DEAD RUBBER' OFFERS THE PERFECT CHANCE TO TINKER WITH THE TEAM

THE trip to Perpignan this weekend is now effectively a dead rubber for Gloucester, although they will of course want to keep the intensity of last week in their performance.This could be the time for Nigel Davies to pick some of the fringe members of the squad. Although with two LV= Cup games coming up there will be plenty of opportunity for that.I criticised Davies earlier in the season for sending a weakened team to Munster, but this is different.Gloucester cannot qualify for the latter stages of this competition after losing to the Irish at Kingsholm.Had the Cherry and Whites sent a full team to Thomond Park the result could have been very different – which would have put a whole new spin on the group and the competition.Perhaps some of the big names who didn’t start against Munster last week – in what was a different but ultimately vindicated selection from Davies – will get the chance to prove themselves in France.Perpignan have had an up and down season, capable of the sublime and the ridiculous, which means Gloucester should view them as ripe for the taking.They really have nothing to lose, so I expect the team to go there and take the came to their French counterparts. JONNY HAS A CHANCE TO EARN A WORLD CUP SPOTJONNY May had one of those performances where he just couldn’t get away against Munster.But for a tap tackle here and a mistimed pass there, the Gloucester flier could have celebrated his England call-up with a couple of tries or more.As it was, his outing in the number 13 shirt showed his versatility, although he lacks the physicality to fill the position on a regular basis.May fully deserves his England call-up, and given half a chance he could come away from the Six Nations having made one of the wing berths his own.His electric speed and eye for the gap make him one of the most dangerous players in the Premiership. Despite Gloucester being so poor as a team this season, he has managed to play well enough to be picked out by the England selectors, aided of course by a few injuries in his position.But this is how chances come along, and I would love to see May go on and show what he can do with World Cup spots up for grabs.May has continued to get better since coming into the Gloucester squad and if he keeps on doing so the Cherry and Whites have a superstar on their hands.

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  • alex-bound  |  January 15 2014, 9:58PM

    This is all well and good but what a club like Gloucester Rugby really should be doing is to ensure that Rupҽrt Hardҽn, our first choice and most talented tight head prop, starts as many games for Gloucester as is possible.

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