Gloucester ready to ring the changes for clash with Munster
Burns and Twelvetrees set to start as visitors expect a Munster backlash
Nigel Davies, the Gloucester coach, will adhere to his pre-ordained policy of juggling his resources for the side’s second Heineken Cup pool game away to Munster this Saturday after their victory over Perpignan last weekend. Davies had admitted in advance of that game that he was going to pick two contrasting line-ups for the two games and that he had informed his players of both selections.
Ben Morgan, Rupert Harden and Darren Dawidiuk were the three main regulars to miss out against Perpignan, and are expected to return to the starting line-up, as should Charlie Sharples, who remained on the bench for 80 minutes against Perpignan.
Morgan especially has struggled for form, although Davies stopped short of admitting he had been dropped. Billy Twelvetrees would have been “rested” against Perpignan too, but then Henry Trinder suffered an injury in training on Thursday – and Freddie Burns fell ill overnight before the game, obliging Twelvetrees while Ryan Mills – the highly-rated England Under-20s graduate – started at inside centre.
But the expectation is that Davies will revert to the dual playmaking 10-12 axis of Burns and Twelvetrees. Davies is also keen to give squad men like outhalf Jonny Bentley and flanker Matt Cox opportunities in Limerick.
“It will be a group of players chomping at the bit to show what they can do too out in Munster,” said Davies. “Right now I couldn’t tell you what my first team is. Three or four of them are nailed-in, but after that it’s all up for grabs, so we’re still going to use these two games to establish that.”
Nor will the events of last week change Davies’ thinking. “Edinburgh’s win certainly opens up the pool, but that doesn’t change our challenge out in Munster. We know full well what to expect: a fierce pack, nudged around the field by shrewd tactical kickers and a backline that can cause some real damage. And Munster will be looking for the kind of reaction that we were after against Perpignan.”
“The good thing is that there’s a group of boys who didn’t play on Saturday who will know they have to step it up. They are desperate to play, they’ve been rested: so they should be in the right frame of mind.”
Davies also believes his team will benefit from having played at Thomond Park in August, when losing a friendly by 28-17. “We got the feel for the place in pre-season, so we know what a massive task is in front of us. But also I would imagine the pressure will be pretty much on Munster to get a result. Either way, we’ve got to be wary of that and expect a backlash.”
“We’ve done the first job which was to secure a home win first-up . . . That gives us the right to have a shot at Munster - but we absolutely must expect that they will come out spitting fire.”