How are they getting on?
I was surprised to see that Newcastle have managed to drop down to 9th in the table after their loss at Wasps last week, which is disturbingly reminiscent of their league position in recent years. It may not be as doom and gloom as it seems however as they are only behind 6th placed Wasps on points difference and only four points behind a playoff position.
Gloucester, on the other hand are continuing to confuse me after claiming arguably the most sought after scalp in the league in Saracens last week, taking advantage of Harlequins’ inconsistency and Northampton’s poor form to move up to a very respectable fifth. They’ve recorded some fantastic wins this season despite never seeming entirely convincing and this is evidenced by their points difference of -48, the worst in the league aside from the bottom two teams.
What to look out for?
- Battle of the other fly halves – Maybe it’s going slightly overboard but I’m very interested to see who comes out on top in the match-up between Joel Hodgson and Billy Burns, two impressive young English stand-offs who haven’t been considered noteworthy enough to merit international discussion. It’s probably fair but I like both of these players. Billy, brother of Freddie, seems to have always been highly rated at Gloucester and has a chance to make the 10 shirt his own. Hodgson on the other hand is an unconventional looking rugby player who left Newcastle at a young age and was considered a journeyman before returning to impress last season. He will want to perform especially well this season with the return of prodigal son Toby Flood in his position.
- Another big victory for Gloucester? – Gloucester have recorded victories as impressive as anybody this season, including against top two Exeter and Saracens. They’ve also recorded some pretty disappointing losses highlighted by an eye-watering 57-10 defeat at the hands of Sale. Newcastle away is shaping up to be one of the toughest games in the league this year and another victory here would force the other teams and their critics to take note of a side whose results seem to be outshining their performances.
- Sinoti Sinoti on the wing – While Northern English teams have long claimed to be under-represented internationally, the lack of call ups (a few Newcastle wingers aside) for these two sides is evidence that they don’t rely on individual stars as much as some of the higher profile clubs. Sinoti Sinoti (Sinoti for short) is an exception and quite why he has only played five times for Samoa is beyond me. He consistently lights up the Premiership and despite his relative lack of stature is one of the most powerful wingers around – a must watch.
Well I really don’t know what is going on with Gloucester, but I’ve really liked the look of Newcastle all season so I will go with them. They play on an artificial pitch making them a very difficult prospect at home and I’m not ready to give up on them after a disappointing loss to a resurgent Wasps. I’ll go out on a limb and back them to win by a few scores against a Gloucester side four places ahead of them.