Rugby Union: Hill building for the future

Gloucester 31 Sale 19
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RICHARD HILL rarely sits astride a fence; he can generally be found with his feet firmly planted on one side or the other. The question of player burn-out is a fine example. After playing down Gloucester's achievement in running up a comfortable, if untidy, victory over Sale, Hill rounded on those who say they are playing too many games.

"These are full-time professionals. Not so long ago, players used to turn out in 42 matches a season and hold down a full-time job as well.

"Matt Perry at Bath, for example, says he needs a rest. I think players are getting carried away with the hysteria. Thirty-five games in a season doesn't kill anybody. Some of these people who are bleating are getting paid around pounds 100,000. They should just get on with it. I would actively encourage members of my squad to play representative rugby, even if they get tired doing it."

Representative honours for a number of Gloucester players has been the bonus for Hill. He is still building for the future, a policy that saw him axe more than a dozen players last year. This year, Hill will be looking to jettison around four or five, and he announced: "We need to sign a couple of players over the summer to increase our strength in depth. I am very happy with our forwards but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that we are short of personnel cover in key areas in the backs, especially at 10, 12 and 13."

There was an alarming number of errors by both sides on Saturday, chiefly through carelessness, and Hill was particularly scathing about his side's defence.

Sale, though, wasted too much possession. And they also lacked the fire and flair of a side ignited by its vociferous and, it must be said, intimidating support. The word Shed disguises a passionate, success-hungry heart that beats on the periphery of the Kingsholm body politic. When Gloucester needed a lift, the fans obliged.

Their reward came just after half time. Full-back Chris Catling was 10 metres from his own line when he initiated a spectacular counter-attack, finding Philippe Saint-Andre, who slipped what many Sale supporters felt was a forward pass to Terry Fanolua. The Samoan fed Richard Tombs, whose lobbed pass allowed wing Brian Johnson to scorch the remaining 30 metres to the line.

With their last match an away date, it was a fitting finale to Gloucester's season at Kingsholm.

Gloucester: Tries McCarthy, Fanolua, Johnson, Saint-Andre; Conversions Mapletoft 4; Penalty Mapletoft. Sale: Tries Beim, Howarth, Erskine; Conversions Howarth 2.

Gloucester: C Catling; B Johnson, T Fanolua, R Tombs, P Saint-Andre; M Mapletoft, S Benton (L Beck, 30); T Windo (capt), N McCarthy (C Fortey, 75), P Vickery, R Fidler, D Sims (M Cornwell, 70), S Ojomoh, S Devereux, N Carter.

Sale: J Mallinder (capt); M Moore, J Baxendell, S Davidson, T Beim; S Howarth, K Ellis; P Winstanley, S Diamond, D Bell, D Baldwin, S Raiwalui (C Murphy, 73), P Sanderson, D Erskine (D O'Cuinneagain, 52), D O'Grady.

Referee: A Spreadbury (Bristol).