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Hazell has a crucial linking role to play

By The Citizen  |  Posted: January 25, 2013

Comments (12)

ANDY Hazell's return to the Gloucester ranks cannot come quickly enough.

Once upon a time teams all had specialist number sevens who were usually masterful at providing a real link between tackles and continuity.

They were generally smaller than the average forward but they seemed to have a sixth sense that honed in on where the game was going – not where it had gone and had broken down!

Gloucester are having to react too often at tackled ball when the skills and pace of the backline is screaming for quick possession.

The stats will, no doubt, suggest that the possession was generally retained, but the quality of that possession does not quite match what is waiting in the backline.

Coaches are between a rock and a hard place on this.

But even if the answer is to go for earlier recycled ball through a traditional type of seven, do those players exist at the top level?

We had the scare a few years ago about the dearth of home-grown props and the howls of outrage seem to have done the trick with more decent props.

The academies need to hastily start a conveyor belt to churn out English sevens. Or try to get Richie McCaw's agent's phone number.

The scoreline against Mont de Marsan looked convincing but the performance would not have made good viewing for Nigel Davies and the coaching team.

Gloucester started well, went to sleep and managed to wake-up to light the blue touch paper with 20 minutes to go.

In the first period of wakefulness, there was an object lesson in rugby's handling skills when Gloucester produced two passes in what looked no more than a five metre blindside to send Jonny May in.

The blindside, is the hardest area of the pitch to defend but May still had a lot to do to ensure that he got the try.

The Cherry and Whites had plenty of possession but all too often they were profligate as it was not used effectively to sustain attacking pressure.

It is one thing to get away with it against a side languishing in the danger zone in the French top league – it will be quite another matter to escape and win easily against tougher nuts.

After about half an hour you could almost feel the game ebbing away and focus diminishing.

Nick Wood did his level best to introduce a wake-up call with a 34th minute tackle on his own 22 that probably made sure that the French recipient had to book a dental appointment for new fillings.

Then he had the audacity and effrontery to sprint 30 metres to do it again. But the message was not getting through.

It did improve, but that change took a long time coming and the visitors were not quite as alienated and beaten as they might have imagined on the way to Luton airport.

Gloucester seem to be on the horns of a common dilemma in the Premiership.

The accepted mantra seems to be that might is right so you go for dynamic meat on the hoof that packs a big (metaphorical) punch.

Akapusi Qera is the perfect blueprint of this modern forward, but might there not be a need occasionally for a more subtle set of skills from a totally different type of player?

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  • Hinchcliffe33  |  January 25 2013, 8:52PM

    Without an once of a doubt, Rupert Harden, our first choice tight head, is the best number 3 at Gloucester Rugby.

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  • BillBM  |  January 25 2013, 8:46PM

    The fact is, Nigel Davies, our astute and knowledgeable DoR at Gloucester Rugby has made Harden his first choice tight-head, selecting Harden to start 9 Premiership games in the first half of the season. Says it all, really.

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  • s_sorca  |  January 25 2013, 8:42PM

    Harden = the best tight head at Gloucester.

    |   7
  • CrunchMan  |  January 25 2013, 8:39PM

    Rupert Harden owns the tight head spot.

    |   7
  • Don_Deakin  |  January 25 2013, 8:30PM

    I just hope our top rated tight head, Rupert Harden, is back against Saints in the Premiership. Remember the unedifying sight of a Gloucester front row being march backwards by a poor Sarries' front row in that last scrum at Vicarage Road? Never again!

    |   6
  • StanFromGlaws  |  January 25 2013, 8:11PM

    Harden has been having a storming season. It is no wonder he has been selected to start the most games of all the front row forwards. And not just any old games. It has been the key games where you need your best players.

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  • Wilson640  |  January 25 2013, 8:04PM

    That was another embarrassment that we failed to push Mont de Marsan over their own try line when they were a man down with one of their front row in the sin-bin. You just know that that would never have happened if Rupert Harden, our best and most talented tight head had been scrumming down for Gloucester at the time.

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  • Deadeye_Glaws  |  January 25 2013, 8:00PM

    If only Rupert Harden had been playing against Mont de Marsan we wouldn't have struggled in the scrum and we wouldn't have failed in the attempted push over try.

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  • CurtDowne  |  January 25 2013, 7:48PM

    Here's hoping that Rupert Harden has recovered from his injury and will be fit and raring to go against Saints in the Premiership. We all know that he is the DoR's first choice and the DoR knows what he is talking about.

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  • Drusus  |  January 25 2013, 2:10PM

    ND has made the right decision in resting our best and most talented tight head in readiness for the return of the Premiership. He will be needed for when the serious stuff kicks off again.

    |   6