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Gloucester CEO reveals findings of 'deep dive' 10th-place review

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Gloucester CEO Lance Bradley has written an open letter to supporters after the club’s frustrating 10th-place finish in the Gallagher Premiership. The Kingsholm side appeared to be end-of-season play-off candidates when placed third midway through the campaign, but they lost their last six matches on the bounce and eight of the nine games played in 2023.


The administrator insisted he didn’t want to be seen making excuses for their last-but-one finish, but he wanted Gloucester fans to know the true extent of the toll that a heavy injury rate took on George Skivington’s squad and its potential to deliver results.

“There is no doubt that finishing 10th in the Gallagher Premiership was disappointing, especially when we had been third only a couple of months before the end of the season,” began Bradley. “We have tried not to use injuries as an excuse, but it is worth explaining just how big an impact injuries have had, especially in the second half of the season.

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“To put our injuries in context, we would normally expect to have two or three players require an operation during a season. This season we had 14 players undergo operations – and eight of those were players who would be considered first-choice starters.

“At times we had up to half of our salary cap spend unavailable through injury. And it isn’t just a case of having so many injuries; it’s the positions in which those injuries occurred.


“In the front row, for example, a team can cope with one of its first-choice players being absent, and this is a fairly normal situation for most teams. When you are unable to start with any of your first-choice front rowers, then things inevitably become much more difficult. And it also means that when you bring on the replacements from the bench, things can get even more challenging.

“Before our Christmas games, we had two or three of our first-choice front row starting every game, and we averaged 3.1 points per game. Afterwards, we had zero or one starting in seven out of eight games, and we averaged 1.4 points per game.


“That’s not to say anything about the players who have stepped in – everyone has worked hard and given their all. It’s just a fact of life that if you are unable to use your first-choice players, especially when they are all in the same group (eg: front row), and for an extended period of time, the job becomes much more difficult.

“We have done a deep dive into what we believe the reason for so many injuries might be. Of course, we have looked at the impact of our 3G pitch, as well as training routines and loads, nutrition etc. There is no evidence at all that the pitch has been a factor. In fact, our soft tissue injuries have dramatically decreased since the installation of our pitch and the switch of the training centre to Kingsholm.

“There is no pattern to the injuries, and we have come to the conclusion that we have just had an astonishingly bad run of luck. We are not saying that finishing 10th was entirely down to injuries, but they certainly played a huge part.

“If there is a positive to come out of this, it’s that it is exceptionally unlikely that we will have the same level of injuries next season. If we had been able to maintain 3.1 points per game, we would have finished third.


“Another area that played a part in our disappointing final position was our attack. The stats from the season show that only Newcastle scored fewer points and tries than we did. The appointment of James Lightfoot-Brown as our new attack coach will bring a good deal of additional experience and resources to our coaching team.

“James has come from London Irish, where he not only worked with their academy but was also their attack coach. In fact, he was so highly regarded during the eight years he coached there that he stood in as interim head coach when Les Kiss was away for a few weeks. We will be announcing the addition of further resource to our coaching team shortly.

“Despite the disappointment of finishing 10th, there were some good points to come out of the season. Our defence was good, with only three teams conceding fewer points than us. Discipline, too, was good; we conceded fewer penalties than any other team.

“And with so many injuries it gave a number of players coming through our academy game time they wouldn’t have expected quite so early, and several of them have grabbed that opportunity with both hands.

“I must also mention that our total attendance was the fourth highest in the Premiership, behind only Leicester, Bristol and Harlequins (who played two home games at Twickenham). We sold out four games, and our attendance increased versus the same fixture in 21/22 in nine out of ten games. Thank you for your incredible support.

“All of this leads us to believe that we are still on the right track for success, and we are already looking forward to next season.”


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