Showmanship and solidity can prop Gloucester Rugby to world sevens crown
FIJIAN flair mixed with British rigidity can carry Gloucester to World Club Sevens glory, believes Rob Thirlby.
Gloucester sevens coach Thirlby reckons the Cherry and Whites can rule the sevens world, if they sharpen up their defensive shape and sustain their attacking elan.
Fijian trio Akapusi Qera, Apo Satala and Andy Bulumakau bossed Gloucester’s JP Morgan Premiership Sevens tournament victory.
Now they will fight to force Gloucester all the way to the inaugural World Club Sevens crown, at Twickenham this weekend.
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Gloucester analyst Thirlby doubles as the Cherry and Whites’ short-format coach.
And the ex-England Sevens flyer hailed the natural attacking game of the Kingsholm men’s South Sea Islands stars.
Qera has been a Kingsholm mainstay since 2007, while Satala is guesting for the Cherry and Whites, after leaving the club three years ago.
Powerful three-quarter Bulumakau has spent two seasons at Forest of Dean club Drybrook.
But now he has completed his Hartpury College studies, the 21-year-old is expected to leave the Mannings Ground club.
Gloucester are monitoring his progress closely and could yet aim to add him to their academy, while Stourbridge are also strongly interested.
Throw in combative back-rower Matt Cox, and Gloucester boast a potent and threatening line-up, as well as the element of unpredictability.
And Thirlby hopes that combination can prove devastating in the two-day tournament.
He explained: “They are brought up on the beach playing touch and sevens, rugby’s their main sport and so they are all naturally talented at sevens.
“What we’ve got to do is learn to play on their wavelength.
“In England there’s a bit more structure compared to the kind of sevens game they play in Fiji.
“Hopefully we can marry the two together well, and make that combination an effective weapon tomorrow.”
Gloucester will take on Moscow (11.52am), New York (2.22pm) and Western Province (5.11pm) in tomorrow’s opening-day World Club Sevens action.
All the knockout matches will be held on Sunday, and Thirlby sees no reason why Gloucester cannot go the distance.
He continued: “We believe in ourselves and what we can do, and we’ll go out with the same pride and passion, and put our bodies on the line for the Gloucester shirt as we have done in every tournament and game since Nigel’s taken over.
“We can’t ask for much more than that, but believe you me, the boys do believe in themselves.
“We’ve worked on the contact area, especially in the middle part of the field, we tend to be a bit light because we’re dropping rather than following.
“And defensively our spacing is probably a bit too wide, and we tend to over-chase a little bit, which is quite a common theme in sevens moving from 15s.
“So we’ll give those a tweak, hopefully that will tighten those up and hopefully we can upset a few expectations.”
GLOUCESTER: M Thomas (capt), A Satala, D Robson, A Qera, A Bulumakau, M Cox, N Codlin, G Evans, R McAtee, S Reynolds, D Cheshire.