Gloucester making all the right noises

Burns, Sharples and Twelvetrees look to impress against lowly London Irish

Nigel Davies is saying all the right things in all the right places these days, which partly explains why Gloucester go into this afternoon's match with London Irish at Kingsholm as a top-four Premiership team.

The Cherry and Whites have spruced themselves up pretty much everywhere – a new chief executive here, a new scrum-half there – but the signing of the Welshman as rugby director has been the key appointment. When he talks in that lyrical Carmarthenshire lilt of his, people listen.

His players will certainly be paying attention today when he warns them of the danger posed by London Irish. Danger? London Irish? Yes, you heard. The Exiles may have spent the first four months of this campaign with their knickers in the kind of twist that would have made the unravelling of the Gordian Knot seem like child's play, but no side boasting international players as capable as Alex Corbisiero, David Paice, Sailosi Tagicakibau and Jonathan Joseph can be that bad, especially when they are underpinned by uncapped practitioners as resourceful as Matt Garvey and Tom Homer, or as eye-catching as the wing Marland Yarde.

"This is a very important game for us, as it is for them for different reasons," Davies said yesterday.

"Yes, they can be dangerous. They're unpredictable and have the ability to hurt teams: they have players who can change a game in an instant, they'll keep probing for opportunities and if we're loose and present them with half-chances, they'll take advantage.

"We have to be mindful of that, to respect it. We're pretty comfortable that we have a game plan to serve us well if we're accurate and execute properly, but we have to be careful."

It is indeed a significant game for both clubs. With Exeter and Northampton knocking lumps out of each other at Sandy Park, one of those sides – perhaps both, if it finishes all-square – will drop points and slip well behind Gloucester in the race for a play-off finish, assuming the West Countrymen bend to Davies' will and do a proper job on their visitors. The Exiles, on the other hand, have to start winning some time. That, or face the grim prospect of relegation.

They are now just a point ahead of Sale at the foot of the league and while it is fiendishly difficult to see the northerners taking much from their visit to Saracens tomorrow – taking anything at all, if truth be told – it may just be that the bottom-feeders will react positively to the latest outbreak of self-consuming chaos on the personnel front and actually win a match or two in the near future.

Exeter at home and London Welsh away? It is surely possible to imagine Danny Cipriani finding a way of lording it over those two. On those same weekends, Irish host Saracens and visit Bath, the sides with the best defensive records in the country. Ouch.

What Davies did not say was that today's game is important for three of his first-choice back division. Freddie Burns, the hot-shot playmaker who took to the international field as to the manner born when England duffed up the All Blacks last month, is pretty much assured of a place in the Six Nations squad to be announced next week, but he could use a confident, commanding performance as a last reminder to Stuart Lancaster, the head coach of the national side.

For two of Burns' close colleagues, the wing Charlie Sharples and the centre Billy Twelvetrees, things are more urgent. Sharples played extremely well in his natural position of right wing against Fiji at the opening of the autumn Test window but was just a little iffy in his unnatural position of left wing against Australia the following week. Since then, he has had to watch a converted full-back in Mike Brown parade around in the No11 shirt, and as Lancaster seems to prefer two full-backs to two wings, Sharples is in danger of missing the cut when the elite party revamp is made public on Wednesday.

Twelvetrees is moving in the right direction – that is to say, towards the England squad – and with good reason: he has the range of gifts, from size and weight to strong distribution and kicking games, to cover most bases in the exasperating No 12 role. Leicester, his previous club, felt he was a little too conciliatory for their taste, but then, Attila the Hun might have come over as a bit soft at Welford Road.

Since moving to Kingsholm, the 24-year-old midfielder has made his share of aggressive tackles and while he is no Brad Barritt, he has a range of weaponry unmatched by any other England contender. Will Lancaster do the right thing this week by promoting him? Again, a decent contribution from Twelvetrees today would not go amiss.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?