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What The Butler Saw: Gloucester Rugby legend Peter Butler has his say

By The Citizen  |  Posted: February 10, 2014

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Lack of physicality gets exposed again in defeat:

A losing bonus point is a decent return from a difficult away trip to Sale with two players in the sin-bin.

But yet again you are left thinking about what might have been from a Gloucester display that was improved in certain patches, but desperately poor in others.

Watching Gloucester outmuscled has been a common occurrence this season, and Sale were the latest to expose a lack of physicality at the heart of the Cherry and Whites’ performance.

With the backs that Gloucester have there is always going to be penetration, with Martyn Thomas and Charlie Sharples showing exactly how deadly they are when given room to manoeuvre.

But opportunities for the finishers in the team have been at a premium this season because of an inability to match the opposition physically up front.

Remember, both Jonny May, Billy Twelvetrees and James Simpson-Daniel were missing from the line-up against Sale, but still Thomas and Sharples et al were able to rip apart the home defence when given the opportunity.

There has to be some sympathy for Nigel Davies.

His team’s flaws were exposed early on in the season but all you can do from that point is work with what you have.

The result has been just four Premiership wins this season, not enough for a team who were looking at the top four, not the bottom four.

I hear you scream that Davies built this squad so it’s his fault, and I can understand that point of view.

The Welshman probably knew he was light up front but I’m sure he didn’t realise exactly how light.

He has taken steps to correct that imbalance ahead of next season but for the time being he has had to stick with his lot and it’s making for a long and arduous campaign.

Next on the menu is a trip to Leicester in the league at probably the best time to play the Tigers.

Richard Cockerill’s men already aren’t the force they once were this season, and with players away on international duty their squad is being fully tested.

They battle to a one-point victory against Worcester last weekend, so Gloucester shouldn’t fear the journey to Welford Road.

But they will need to find a performance they are yet to produce this season to get something from the game.

Great to see Jonny May sparkle in England shirt in Six Nations:

Jonny May showed exactly how dangerous he can be in an England shirt by making the most of the few opportunities that came his way against Scotland.

The Gloucester winger’s electric second-half break at Murrayfield has been a common sight at Kingsholm for a couple of years and it was great to see him do it in a white shirt.

A couple of chances to cross the whitewash also went begging, including one where the pass never came from Exeter man Jack Nowell, but May can be happy with how his afternoon went after the disappointment of the week before against France.

Scotland were desperately poor and were it not for the conditions England might have had a field day.

But with kicks being missed all over the place, the home side never got into the game and ended up comprehensively beaten.

‘Comprehensively beaten’ is also the phrase you would use to describe Ireland’s victory over Wales.

It’s never easy to win in Ireland but if Wales want to see themselves as World Cup contenders they will have to better than they did last weekend.

With France’s victory over Italy, the competition has an incredibly open look to it, with a week’s break now on the agenda before Wales face France, Scotland go to Italy and England welcome the Irish to Twickenham.

Andy Hazell was someone to rely on:

The fearless physicality with which he played the game will be my overriding memory of the career of Andy Hazell.

That his retirement is probably a result of his willingness to put his body on the line is quite fitting.

You can’t mess around with head injuries these days so there was no choice but to end it once the doctors had done everything they could.

The news also lifts the lid on why we haven’t seen much of Hazell this season.

With Gloucester lacking a bit of bite up front, the veteran number seven could have provided exactly that.

I’m sure Nigel Davies would salivate at the thought of having the Hazell of the early 2000s to turn to this season, when he, Peter Buxton and either Junior Paramore or James Forrester were ripping apart opposition packs from the back row.

The game has changed considerably since Hazell pulled on the Gloucester shirt, with his game as a scavenger openside going in and out of fashion on a regular basis depending on the interpretation of the breakdown laws.

But Hazell has remained a constant in the Gloucester squad, always there when needed to turn in a typically forceful performance.

He hands over the openside mantle to Matt Kvesic, a player out of the same ilk as the marauding Hazell.

But as a Gloucester man they don’t come much better.

He is a man who would have fitted into any of the great Gloucester teams over the years.

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  • rayglaws09  |  February 12 2014, 9:55PM

    And that game, ladies and gentlemen, is an abject lesson in precisely what happens when your first choice and best tight head, Rupҽrt Hardҽn, is left sat on the bench until the last quarter. Mullered in scrum after scrum in the first half.

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