15 for 10: Gloucester Rugby - an all-decade XV
Similar to Bath, Gloucester’s fortunes have waxed and waned during the 2010’s, rather than more consistent upward trajectory of Exeter, though there is plenty of competition for spots here, not least so in a stacked array of back row options.
Gloucester’s stock has been on the rise since Johan Ackermann’s arrival, however, and one or two of the newer faces benefit as a result of last season’s march up the table. Check out the whole XV below.
- Olly Morgan
Jason Woodward has pushed hard for this spot since arriving from Bristol, although Morgan was also an excellent player for the club. Injuries brought a premature end to his career and denied him the number of England caps his ability surely demanded, but that did not stop him finishing his career with a flourish earlier in this decade.
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- Charlie Sharples
Just the 264 appearance and 91 tries to date for Sharples, who is still more than capable of turning a defence inside out with his speed and footwork. He has been one of the greatest servants to Gloucester during the professional era and he is currently in the process of handing the baton over to Ollie Thorley, a man who will likely feature prominently in the XV of the 2020’s.
- Billy Twelvetrees
It is with a heavy heart that we do not select Henry Trinder here, with the outside centre having lit up the Gallagher Premiership over a number of years. When fit, he has been amongst the best in the competition, and we have had to weigh up those injury issues versus the durability and consistency that Twelvetrees has brought to the club. Either would be fitting candidates for this spot.
- Mark Atkinson
Mike Tindall was still making an impact earlier in the decade and James Hook’s arrival from Wales was celebrated, but neither have had the long-term impact of Atkinson, with his chemistry with Twelvetrees and Danny Cipriani proving particularly vital to Gloucester’s rise up the table. In an age of secondary fly-halves at inside centre, Atkinson has impressed as a player capable of getting over the gain-line and playing in his teammates behind it.
- James Simpson-Daniel
Perhaps no player in the professional era has embodied the Cherry and White quite as much as Simpson-Daniel. Internationally, his career is always regarded as a bit of a “what if”, though his contributions to Gloucester go beyond simple numbers. His last four years at the club came in the 2010’s and his impact was still such that he sees off another stalwart of the club, Jonny May. ‘Sinbad’, as he was affectionately known by the Kingsholm faithful, is a player truly deserving of the accolade of club legend.
- Danny Cipriani
From a longevity standpoint, there is a case to be made for Freddie Burns and he is due an honourable mention, although Gloucester’s chances of winning a title have not looked better in this last decade than when Cipriani has been at fly-half. The former Wasps playmaker has added an attacking edge at the club and will be key this season if they are to make the most of Saracens’ points deduction and compete for the Premiership.
- Willie Heinz
If there is one thing Gloucester have not lacked for over the last 10 years, it’s scrum-halves. Rory Lawson, Jimmy Cowan, Greig Laidlaw and Dan Robson have all had their moments in Cherry and White, but it is Heinz who has quietly outlasted them and become an integral piece in the Gloucester jigsaw.
- Nick Wood
Another bona fide stalwart of the club, Wood clocked up over 260 appearances on the loosehead for a club that has a tradition of developing uncompromising and tough as nails props. In a decade where Gloucester have chopped and changed in the front row, Wood was a constant and reliable operator for the club.
- Richard Hibbard
Brought in as part of the Guinness PRO14 shopping spree that David Humphreys initially went on in his role of Director of Rugby in order to bring the title to Kingsholm, Hibbard went on to make 100 appearances for the club over a four-year spell. Although that wave of high profile PRO14 recruitment didn’t bring the desired results on the pitch, Hibbard did distinguish himself with his commitment to the jersey and the physicality of his play.
- John Afoa
Afoa’s stint at the club lined up completely with Hibbard’s and despite the fact that the real second wind of his career seems to currently be going on at Bristol, the Kiwi gave Gloucester some much-needed set-piece stability. His full influence could be yet to be seen, too, as the club push through young tightheads like Ciaran Knight and Jack Bartlett, both of whom will have spent time learning from Afoa.
- Ed Slater
Slater’s move to Gloucester after having spent the bulk of his career at Leicester Tigers mirrors that of Jim Hamilton, another player worthy of mention in this side. Slater’s arrival helped eradicate a soft underbelly which seemed to plague Gloucester in previous seasons, whilst his move to evolve his game and become a more mobile player certainly seems to have paid off for the West Country side.
- Tom Savage
There is no shortage of options here, with Alex Brown having ended his career this past decade, Jeremy Thrush and Mariano Galarza having brought international quality, and Franco Mostert one who will without doubt stamp his authority moving forward. That said, Savage gave eight years of his life to Gloucester before moving to Japan this year, and though his name is not as high profile as some of those others, his contribution to the club on the pitch over that period outweighs them all.
- Jake Polledri
Lewis Ludlow, Peter Buxton and Ross Moriarty were all considerations here, though it seems as though Polledri is turning in man of the match-type performances on a weekly basis. The flanker seems well on his way to become a firm fan favourite at Kingsholm, not to mention establishing himself as a 1st XV player in what is arguably Gloucester’s strongest back row group in many, many years.
- Andy Hazell
From a talent perspective, you could argue Jaco Kriel or Matt Kvesic, whilst from a durability and longevity standpoint, you’d struggle to find a better option than Akapusi Qera. Hazell combines those two elements and though he straddled two decades, he still had plenty to give in this one. If Kriel can stay fit, he should feature in the 2020’s XV, though this spot belongs to Hazell for his contributions over the past 10 years.
- Ben Morgan
Another player who deserves mention alongside the Simpson-Daniels and Woods of this XV, as a true hero to the fans of the club. His performances on the pitch have matched up with that standing, too, as he has moulded himself into an international-calibre No 8 and a player that is always capable of getting Gloucester moving forward. There are honourable mentions for Sione Kalamafoni and Luke Narraway, although this spot was always going to go to Morgan.
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