Gloucester Rugby: Lineout hits new heights
LINEOUT strategists James Hudson and Alex Brown are ready to boss Gloucester's aerial set-piece threat, hails rugby director Nigel Davies.
Kingsholm chief Davies has tipped new recruit Hudson to elevate the Cherry and Whites' lineout work to new heights this season.
Former Bath and London Irish lock Hudson joined Gloucester from Newcastle Falcons in the summer.
The 31-year-old signed a three-year Kingsholm deal, replacing stalwart Brown as Gloucester's lineout co-ordinator.
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Irreversible shoulder nerve damage forced Brown into premature retirement last term, but now the 34-year-old is thriving as Gloucester's rugby operations manager.
The former Bristol and Bath second-row doubles as Gloucester's lineout coach, underpinning Hudson's on-field duties.
Bath University Biomedical sciences graduate Hudson is primed for his Gloucester debut in tonight's pre-season opener against Heineken Cup holders Toulon (Stade Mayol, 7.30pm BST).
If Hudson makes his Gloucester bow he could well find himself up against Springbok World Cup-winner Bakkies Botha.
Davies is unfazed by that potential match-up, hailing the tactical nous of both new man Hudson and old hand Brown.
The former Wales centre said: "James has already taken control of the lineout, and is bossing that area extremely well.
"He's a special talent in that respect, and that's exactly why we worked so hard to sign him.
"That kind of specialist knowledge and application is very rare, but it's also an important commodity.
"We had that in spades with Alex Brown but, obviously during his injury absence and after his enforced retirement, that was something we certainly lacked for the majority of last season.
"Now we have control in that area, and our set-piece should benefit considerably.
"There are not too many sides that seek to strike from first-phase, but we are clearly one of them, we've never made a secret of that.
"When you do want to exploit set-piece situations, then control of that restart area is important.
"James is extremely adept in the athletic elements of the lineout, but he is also a very shrewd technician and tactician.
"And that's exactly what we craved last year.
"Putting him together with Alex Brown, allowing those two lineout bosses to team up and devise our systems, is already bearing fruit.
"James clearly takes the lead on that and works out what is best for the players on the field.
"But to have Alex on hand analysing the lineout from the touchline or the stand, that's an extra pair of eyes with extensive experience and expertise in that area.
"And that's something that cannot be underestimated.
"So we sincerely hope those two can pair up to great effect this term, to create a lineout that can cause opponents a great deal of problems."
Gloucester's defence coach Paul Moriarty worked with Hudson when the pair were both installed under Alan Tait's Newcastle Falcons regime.
Moriarty had no hesitation endorsing Hudson's qualities and leadership skills to Davies during last term's recruitment drive.
Gloucester had protracted negotiations with Leicester's Geoff Parling and also Toulon's Nick Kennedy, who has since signed for Harlequins.
Homesick Kennedy always had his heart set on a move back to London, not just England.
And after rejecting Gloucester's advantage, the former London Irish lock has filled the Harlequins berth created by Olly Kohn's injury-forced retirement.
There are always plenty of transfer discussions that never bear fruit though, and after a lengthy pre-season training stint, Davies remains convinced Hudson is the perfect man for the job.
Davies added: "Paul Moriarty worked with him at Newcastle, and he's only had high praise for him in terms of his professionalism, and the guy gets stuck in as well.
"I think he'll bring something different and something that we definitely need, coming into the make-up of our pack."