I admit I'm a lineout geek, says new boy
THERE was no big bang for James Hudson when it came to lineout theory.
Gloucester's summer second-row recruit from Newcastle Falcons has been among the Premiership's chief lineout tacticians for years.
Unashamedly proud of his nerdy set-piece studies, the former Bath and London Irish lock is ready to bring all that learning to bear at Kingsholm.
The urge to be a technical lineout guru did not strike in one foul swoop. Hudson's specialist skill evolved every time he picked the brains of an established set-piece thinker.
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Hudson and Gloucester stalwart Alex Brown had some titanic aerial tussles over the years, matching each other for meticulous preparation and detail – as well as acumen in execution.
When Brown was forced into premature retirement last season after sustaining irreparable shoulder nerve damage, Gloucester turned to 31-year-old Hudson to fill the glaring void.
Humbled and proud in equal measure to assume the Cherry and Whites' lineout reins from Brown, Hudson is relishing having his predecessor on hand as a sounding board.
Brown cuts many guises as Gloucester's new rugby operations manager, but he always finds time to help biomedical sciences graduate Hudson finalise those in-depth lineout plans.
"When I started at Bath I was brought through by Michael Foley, the Australian forwards coach," explained the new Kingsholm recruit.
"As with most Aussie coaches he was absolutely meticulous in his preparation, the lineout being no exception.
"He was a hooker himself, and while scrummaging was a big focus he also had a special knowledge for the lineout.
"So I was able to do my homework then, and with playing with Steve Borthwick too, he's of that mould.
"To learn from both of them at Bath put me on that track quite quickly, and then at Irish, Toby Booth is very bright in the lineout as well but in a very different way, so that gave me a good scope and quite polar opinion on how to do things.
"So I felt I had quite a good upbringing in that respect from coaches and players.
"Since then I've taken that on to form my own ideas about how you do things and what my opinions of how to go best against different opposition.
"It's an exciting opportunity to follow on from Alex, but at the same time it's quite daunting, because he did a fantastic job here for years and years.
"He's still got that record for the most consecutive Premiership games, and he was phenomenally consistent for years here.
"And his special area was that lineout attack and defence.
"Hopefully what we've put together in terms of calling structure and options available, we have changed things slightly but we're still evolving from what remained before.
"And I think the boys have executed those plans well in the last few weeks.
"Hopefully that can continue and we can really start taking it to the next level.
"Alex has a very important and wide-ranging role at the club, but to have an extra pair of eyes from someone who understands that area to that extent, that's brilliant.
"When we're putting ideas together, I can knock things around with him and it's always reassuring when you agree on things.
"His opinion is extremely valid, and to have that on top of forwards coach Andrew Stanley's input, that's ideal."
From Bath University to the Recreation Ground, Sutton Coldfield-born Hudson then battled out with Bob Casey and Nick Kennedy in a formidable lineout trio at London Irish.
A stint captaining Newcastle Falcons followed, but now the former Solihull School pupil is back in the West Country, and itching to help propel Gloucester up the table.
Plenty of Gloucester's elder statesmen have tasted Premiership final defeat, and that elusive league crown still drives the likes of James Simpson-Daniel in their Kingsholm mission.
Hudson too knows that pain, having suffered a 10-9 Premiership final defeat to Leicester Tigers in 2009.
Nigel Davies' Gloucester side came within a whisker of a play-off tilt last term, and again harbour title aspirations.
Gloucester's lineout certainly craved leadership last term, and Hudson is desperate to deliver, but he said there has to be more to his game than set-piece prowess.
He continued: "Part of coming here was being asked to take a big role in that area.
"Stan has the final say, of course, but I'm a geek in that respect of doing the analysis, I really enjoy all that.
"I will study patterns to work out opportunities we can try to exploit against opponents.
"The simple fact is these days, if you don't do that you can't give yourself a real chance at the weekend.
"If you don't get up in the right spaces at the right times, then you won't put the right pressure on the opposition.
"The work you do during the week hopefully, if the plan comes together, you reap the rewards at the weekend, so that's why you do it.
"It's the start-point of phases of the game, so what I do after that is pretty important too!
"It's important, but it's only a small part of it after all."