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Peter Butler column: Tigers, teams and perfect 10

By The Citizen  |  Posted: December 27, 2012

Freddie Burns

Freddie Burns

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TIGERS TRIP IS THE BIGGEST TEST SO FAR

THE tests just keep on coming for the Cherry and Whites.

After the gutsy come-from-behind victory over Exeter at Kingsholm last weekend, next up is the small matter of a trip to Welford Road to face Leicester.

The Tigers are in form and on their own patch which makes it nothing short of the toughest game of the season for Nigel Davies and his men.

But confidence should be high. Exeter were on a lengthy unbeaten run until they were chopped down in a game in which Gloucester never really flourished.

I had said the week before it would come down to which team imposed their style on the game, and it was Exeter who won that particular battle.

But Gloucester managed to beat the Chiefs at their own game after realising trying to run the ball was playing into their hands.

Instead they went to plan B, tightened the whole game up and won the fight in the end – just.

I'm sure Freddie Burns was a mighty relieved man to get the extra chances he needed after missing a couple.

Burns’ kicking has been a revelation this season and I was impressed with the way he managed to compose himself in that second half, and come back with the points that won the game.

If Gloucester are to prosper at Welford Road, Burns must be at his kicking best, both out of hand and at the posts. Every opportunity must be converted and the Tigers must be pinned back relentlessly.

You simply do not come away with soft victories against Leicester.

They are pretty much at full strength, with all their internationals available.

They have a couple of guys with England points to prove in the shape of Toby Flood and Thomas Waldrom.

Put simply, the game is set up to be a very tasty one, in front of what will no doubt be a full house.

Gloucester's forwards are about to get their biggest test this season and they must know that.

Having stood up against Exeter, particularly in the scrum where Shaun Knight continues to impress when he gets the chance, they now get the chance to see where they are against consistently the best set of forwards in the Premiership for ten years.

BURNS V FLOOD - WHO IS THE PERFECT 10?

THERE are key battles all over the field against Leicester this weekend, but none will be more watched than the duel between Freddie Burns and Toby Flood, the two fly halves.

Flood is being talked about as the outgoing England incumbent, while Burns is the new kid on the block.

The Leicester man was injured for the now famous win over New Zealand, while Burns came in and made an accomplished debut off the bench in that game.

In the reverse fixture at Kingsholm, an inspired Burns made Flood look pedestrian in a thrilling Gloucester victory.

Flood will not want to be shown up again. He knows his international future could be on the line.

Get the better of Burns on Saturday, and Flood shows himself to be the safe option alongside Owen Farrell in the battle for the number ten shirt.

But if Burns grabs the initiative once again, Flood falls further down the pecking order and once you do that, it is very difficult to claw your way back up.

If England coach Stuart Lancaster isn't at Welford Road this weekend, I would be very surprised.

ARE WE A TEAM THAT CAN DELIVER?

GLOUCESTER must be delighted to be sitting in fourth place in the Premiership come the halfway point it the season.

Fourth at Christmas is a great platform to build from going into the second round of fixtures in a season that started with very few expectations.

But not only have the Cherry and Whites produced several impressive wins so far this season, they have done it with both flair and guts.

They have wrestled wins and destroyed teams and seem to have several ways to win a game, which is always crucial at this level.

Nigel Davies has flipped the image of the squad on its head after just half a season in charge.

Gloucester had a reputation a team that would roll over when the pressure came on, but that is no longer.

Hopefully there are some big finals and semi-finals to look forward to when this new found belief can be put to the test.

But for now, a win at Welford Road this weekend would do.

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  • Don_Deakin  |  December 29 2012, 7:50AM

    Well we can practically write off today's game now that it is confirmed that Harden is still out injured. All we can hope for is that the loose head props can pull off something spectacular and hold our scrum together. Otherwise, the scrum is totally underpowered without Harden.

    |   6
  • Archie_Brew  |  December 28 2012, 9:50PM

    I, for one, am looking forward to, hopefully, the return of our best and top rated tight head, RUPERT HARDEN, taking on and dominating Irish in the front row next weekend. What I certainly don't want to see in the meantime is another embarrassment like we saw against Saracens in that final scrum, which would never have happened if Harden had still been on the pitch.

    |   6
  • LucaTowers  |  December 28 2012, 9:41PM

    Rupert Harden, simply the best!

    |   5
  • Drusus  |  December 28 2012, 9:34PM

    There goes our chance of winning at Tigers! If we had gone into the game with a full strength front row, i.e. with our first choice and best tight head, Rupert Harden, there was a good chance of winning. Now we will have to rely on the two loose head props, Nick Wood and Dan Murphy, to pull something out of the bag.

    |   5
  • alex_bound  |  December 28 2012, 8:50PM

    Harden is the TOP RATED tight head! And that is by the man who knows best, the DoR.

    |   6
  • Deadeye_Glaws  |  December 28 2012, 8:43PM

    Rupert Harden = first choice tight head.

    |   5
  • mattw74  |  December 28 2012, 3:58PM

    Rupert Harden is our best tight head by a long margin.

    |   6
  • richardpenton  |  December 28 2012, 3:44PM

    Rupert Harden is the best tight head at Gloucester Rugby. There ain't no doubt about it.

    |   6
  • fuddlebagley  |  December 28 2012, 3:09PM

    Rupert Harden is the Gloucester Rugby official first choice tight head. The multi-troll akadau can not accept the obvious and he hates that fact.

    |   6
  • BillBM  |  December 28 2012, 2:30PM

    The multi-troll akadau trolling again. How typical!

    |   5

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