IF there’s one game Gloucester loves it is rugby and as the Six Nations is about to kick off, the city is getting in the sporting spirit.
As Gloucester Rugby legends prepare to swap their cherry and white kit for the red rose of England, pubs and fans are also getting ready for one of the year’s rugby highlight.
Staff at the Cider Tree at the Coach Horses near the Kingsholm Stadium are preparing for the onslaught of rugby fans today.
Manager Bob Bolton said it was expecting a full house this evening when England take on France at the Stade de France in a 6pm kick off.
He said: “We are always a popular place to go when the Six Nations are on, but we generally do even better when Gloucester are at home, like they are tomorrow, as everyone comes here after.
“Cider and rugby seem to be a great combination and the pub is always packed inside and out.
“We have one of the largest screens in town that a lot of people don’t realise is there because it comes down from the ceiling on match days.
“We always have extra staff in during the rugby and we’re so busy we don’t get chance to watch it, but you can always tell when a Gloucester player is doing well from the roar of the customers.”
Gloucester centre Billy Twelvetrees will be starting in the England line up as will Jonny May, who makes his national debut on the wing.
Meanwhile number eight, Ben Morgan will be on the bench.
Gloucester season ticket holder, Trevor Simms from Churchdown, said it would be great to see so many of the team playing for their country.
The 31-year-old said: “I think Gloucester might struggle at the weekend with so many players out or being called up for England.
“So it would be great if England could get a good result at the start of the tournament to keep fans smiling on Saturday.”
Coverage of England’s first match starts at 5pm in many of the city’s bars.
So who's going to take home the spoils? We asked three Gloucester Rugby fans to make their predictions.
IT’S that time of year again when club rugby (and almost anything else) takes a back seat and we look forward to national pride being restored or destroyed.
This year looks very open with England as slight favourites due to having both Wales and Ireland at Twickenham, however they have to go away to all the blue teams including their first game in Paris tonight, which will never be easy.
Couple that with the trip to Rome, with Italy eyeing up the first win over England, and it is far from plain sailing.
Their form in the autumn was very patchy but it’s great to see Johnny May given the chance. If he can prise the ball from Farrell, I am sure he will be the star of the tournament. The only worry there is the back row, with the lack of a specialist open side.
Wales had a miserable autumn, however they will raise their game unquestionably and will be there or thereabouts. A problem is outside half, where Priestland is back in the shirt.
He is flakier than the contents of a Cadbury lorry and will probably cost Wales a game or two.
France, according to history, should walk this tournament as they have with all of the last six in the season following the Lions tour. Certainly their form since last year’s tournament has improved immeasurably.
Dusautoir will be a huge loss though and the lack of an experienced out half will be difficult to overcome. Their scrum remains terrifyingly good, but the pitch at Stade de France will nullify that when they are at home.
This year I predict the final table will end up like this: France, England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Italy.
WHEN I made Gloucestershire my home several years ago, I already knew I was I was moving to one of England’s rugby heartlands.
I visited Gloucester’s stronghold that is Kingsholm in the 80s, as a supporter of London Welsh when drawn against them in the John Player Cup.
In those days, London Welsh was one of the glamour clubs with half a dozen Welsh internationals in the side. They didn’t exactly relish the thought of coming to the cauldron that is Kingsholm, not only were they up against a very confrontational and physical Gloucester, they also had to contend with Gloucester’s incredible supporters.
My visits now to Kingsholm are as a Gloucester supporter, and as a Welshman I empathise with the supporters’ fervour and tribalism, it’s what makes them different to any other English club side. In fact if they sang, they could be Welsh.
Welsh supporters are probably the most optimistic supporters I know and having been through some bleak years, Wales rather surprised us all by winning the Six Nations in 2012.
Losing the first match to Ireland last year and going on to win the series means Wales are now being treated as possible favourites for the championship. They in theory have the most settled and experienced side and more importantly understand how to win.
When Wales kick off their first match against Italy today, one of Gloucester’s sons in the form of I shall be in Cardiff for the match hoping to see Wales win.
YOU know the old rhyme – something old, something new, something borrowed , something blue – well I am not off to a wedding tomorrow.
It’s Six Nations time again and it feels just like a wedding – meeting up with friends old and new, the romance and traditions of the day with too much to eat and drink.
With England playing in Paris, I’m off to Cardiff for Wales v Italy.
The old Shed favourite Marco Bartolomi will be playing for the Italians and he will be battling for the line out ball thrown in by the Cherry and Whites’ new recruit Richard Hibbard.
Something borrowed… with all the local connections, Hibbard, coach Davies and Alex Cuthbert from the Forest, I will just have to borrow a Welsh scarf (but just for the day!)
If I’m really lucky I might be taken down to the bay after the game to watch England play France in one of those old dock pubs like The Packet, where you can still smell the sea in the wooden floorboards.
The game in Paris looks like a tough one with three Gloucester players involved, Billy Twelvetrees, Jonny May and Ben Morgan.
If things start to open up late on it should be ideal for Big Ben to make an impact off the bench. Any win in Paris is a good win and if England do it, then things should be set up nicely for a terrific Six Nations.
With a 5pm kick-off, it will be a cold night but the walk up to the ground from the station will be great fun for the fans, lots of wine and banter with the French fans.
Who may have travelled further up from the south of France than some of the English fans have travelled from the UK.
Who do you think will be champions?