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.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US