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Zach Mercer challenged by boss to win over Steve Borthwick in final

By Chris Jones
Gloucester's Zach Mercer (Photo by Bob Bradford/CameraSport via Getty Images)

Gloucester boss George Skivington believes the uniquely talented Zach Mercer can use Gloucester’s European Challenge Cup final with the South African Sharks at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Friday to secure a place in England’s summer tour squad for tests with New Zealand and Japan.

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Mercer scored Gloucester’s first try in their 54-14 final Gallagher Premiership match victory over Newcastle Falcons on Saturday and received the club’s player of the season award to highlight the impact he has made since arriving from Montpellier last summer.

The 26-year-old won the last of his two caps in 2018 and has not been picked by England boss Steve Borthwick since returning from France but Skivington is confident his ball-playing No8’s “unique” skills can bring him more international recognition this summer.

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Skivington said: “All of the players involved in those games have a chance to show (England) what they can do. Zach is unique and there isn’t anyone in the Premiership who can do what he can do. It depends what Steve wants to do with the tour and it is a competitive position.

“Zach is right on the edge and whenever I speak to Steve he is right in the picture and is right in the conversation – he is not being dismissed. It will probably be about how players go and the big games over the next two weeks and every game from now on is a big game.”

Fixture
Challenge Cup
Gloucester
22 - 36
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Sharks
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Outside half Charlie Atkinson has had the goal kicking taken away to allow him to concentrate on other areas of his game and he is pressing Adam Hastings for the starting No10 jersey. The goal-kicking has been accepted by scrum-half Caolan Englefield who is revelling in the responsibility and fired over five conversions from all angles in the win over Newcastle.

Skivington explained: “Caolan is a brilliant kicker and from Charlie’s point of view he hasn’t been happy with the way his goal-kicking has been going and we said he should park that for a while. Charlie actually lives with Caolan and told he could have the kicking duties for a while and it does take that weight off him. Charlie is a good kicker but has got into a little bit of a rut.”

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Mzilikazi 2 hours ago
Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?

Very good article, Nic, and I find agreement with what you write virtually 100%. I think this two mach series has increasingly become one which will be very difficult for Ireland to win. After the first game of the last 6N, I would have been very full of confidence taking on the Boks in SA. France beaten by a big margin in France, it looked as if Ireland had emerged in fine form from the World Cup, despite the very narrow loss to the AB’s. But after that game, a slide began, ending with the defeat to England. Ireland were very fortunate to win this years 6N ! And as you so fully expose, this has not been a good season for Leinster, or indeed, in my view, for any Irish province. The Leinster loos to the Bulls, and then Munster letting a glorious chance slip to the Glasgow Warriors down at Thomond. Man, that one will really hurt. And both Connacht and Ulster have at times looked very poor this seaso, bith heavily beaten on occassion. The loss of both Gibson Park and Keenan are huge blows, especially Gibson Park. And there is really only one clear class 10 in the touring party, Jack Crowley, and he is still a very young player learning his trade. If he goes down, heaven help Ireland. And in my view, Ireland do not have a good scrummaging front row, SA do, and in great depth too. But despite all this doom and gloom, I always believe my team can win. Not that they will win, just can ! Ireland will still field what is the best and most talented team overall that I have seen in my lifetime. But the coaching group will really have to step up, no awful decisions like the one made against the AB’s in the QF….keeping the totally spent and poorly performing(on the day) Sexton on for the full 80mins, leaving Crowley on the sidelines. Ireland should never have lost that game !

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S
Shaylen 5 hours ago
Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?

Ireland have all the tools required to hurt SA. They develop quick ball, hold onto the ball for long periods, stretch the game when its on, have powerful mobile forwards, a good kicking game and they can hold their own in the scrum. They also can force turnovers regularly and in general do well at the breakdown. When Munster, the Ospreys and Glasgow all won games in SA this year against the Bulls and Stormers they did just that and won. It is also the reason why Ireland won the game at the world cup last year. The problem for Ireland is that SA have all the tools required to hurt them as well and hurt them a great deal more than England did in the Six Nations. They are physical and powerful at the set piece, they rush up and counter the Irish attacking system and they can really attack the breakdown and slow your ball down. Their counterattacking threat is also a big weapon and they score many tries from turnover turning defence into offence in a second. Toulouse and the Bulls nailed Leinster in this way and Glasgow did the same thing to Munster. So the series will be really interesting because both sides are so good at countering each other. Interested to see what kind of surprises Tony Brown springs and how the SA game develops. Feel like SA have more potential to surprise Ireland but then a new coaching set up as well as the fact that Japanese and foreign based players tend to take about 5 to 6 weeks to get up to speed might work in Irelands favour. SA have shipped at least one game in 4 of the last 5 June/July test windows going back to 2018 for this exact reason.

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