Ackermann taking one step at a time as Gloucester chase Champions Cup qualification

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Johan Ackermann
EXETER, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: Gloucester head coach Johan Ackermann ahead of the Aviva Premiership match between Exeter Chiefs and Gloucester Rugby at Sandy Park on April 8, 2018 in Exeter, England. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Johan Ackermann and Gloucester are taking Champions Cup qualification game by game, Jake Polledri tells us how he never considered waiting for an England call up and John Kingston gives us the latest Quins injury updates.

Robert Rees has the full transcript from all of yesterday’s post match interviews.

Johan Ackermann taking one step at a time

‘That was like watching the Barbarians.’

”It was a good ending. Exciting, but it was an arm wrestle until then. Credit to them, they hung in there and showed a lot of fight, but I’m proud of the boys and the resilience they showed.”

”They kept on fighting for that victory. We were probably our own enemy, the errors we made, 18 errors and 12 penalties. That’s 30 times where we give away easy ball. Second half we knew we’d make a difference and felt that if we could just score that one try to give us that breathing space we could win the game. Luckily it happened and the guys just lifted the tempo.”

‘Having six forwards on the bench was key’

”It worked for us today and the forwards that come on made a small little difference. It was crucial, every guy made a difference today, but also the backline was very good today. The decision making and how they distributed the ball. It’s just that once or twice that we lost patience on the ball.”

‘That try at the end for the bonus point could make a huge difference.’

”This competition is such high quality, the teams are so close that every point counts and that point could make a massive difference in a few weeks time. We all know about that Newcastle game, with the kicks. So hopefully this’ll soften the blow. We must enjoy tonight, but we can’t get over-excited as if we’re not getting any results further on then you’re out of it anyhow.”

”The good thing is it’s not in our own hands, we can just keep our side clean and keep up the performances.”

Billy Burns

‘Good performance today and really important to get the five points at the end.’

”To get the five points was the main aim and we achieved that. I thought in large parts we showed some really good rugby. We probably let ourselves down a bit for patches in the game, but to show that character to get the five points at the end. It’s great to see the boys drive them over and get the five.”

‘Did you always feel as though you could get the bonus point? Because at the 70 min mark it looked like it was slipping away.’

”I think that’s probably the growth in the mindset of the team. Ed Slater, the captain out there, the messages were good. The messages were to stay calm and relax. We said if we can keep hold of the ball, which we probably lacked for large parts, we’ll punish them at the end. You could see them tiring around that 60min mark and we scored three tries pretty fast.”

‘Nice to be back in the squad and looking to push on from here now?’

”Yeah, it’s great. It’s great to see the competition in the team. Unfortunately for Owen, pulling out last minute yesterday with an injury gave me the opportunity and it’s one that I wanted to take with both hands. I felt like I played alright, there’s still a lot of improvements, but being back at Kingsholm, especially after that Newcastle game, for me personally and to come away with a win. It feels good.”

‘After the Newcastle game you took to Twitter to apologise.’

”It’s probably hurt until today. We spoke in the week that we owed the fans one, especially after the loss last week. To come out and get rid of some of those demons, of course I didn’t get to kick at goal today, but Billy Twelvetrees kicked immaculately, which was great and to get the win feels great and we can now move on into a big semi final where we owe Newcastle one.”

‘So with Owen being out so late, was it a case of being told you’re not in the squad and then you are?’

It’s one of those where as a squad of 40, a week’s a long time in a game of rugby, training’s very intense and people can pick up an injury just as easily as in a game. So I got the call pretty late, but it was one of those that I know my role in the team. That we can come in pretty seamlessly and we did that today.”

Jake Polledri

On the pace of the game

”It was a real intense pace and the speed of the game was massive, but it doesn’t really help with the pitch. The sun was shining, but the pitch is still a little bit wet, but it dried out for us which was nice. It was attritional and physical, but I think we helped ourselves out by attacking quite a lot. I think we know that defending is a lot harder so keeping the ball is key. For those who watched the Exeter game, we threw the ball away quite a bit. We worked on that and there’s still one or two areas, but we just need to pin these down.”

‘You stuck in there, scoring three tries in the last nine minutes.’

”We knew that the points would be significant towards the end of the season, looking at the table. Every point counts and so to get that bonus point, the boys fought in there and I think it’s a good show of character and what we’re doing here. Everyone believing in it and backing it and it’s showed on the pitch.”

‘On Champions Cup qualification’

” We’ll focus on each game and we get that in the back of our mind and if we keep playing like that and keep hold of the ball and putting teams in defence like we did today vs. Quins, who couldn’t really deal with it. We looked a lot fitter.”

‘Any preference on how to qualify for the Champions Cup?’ 

”No, we’ll just play and try and win all the games we play. We haven’t really got a main focus, we’ll just go out there and that’s us really.”

‘What have you got coming up with Italy?’

”They’ve got a tour of Japan, whether I’m selected or not is another issue, I haven’t heard anything from that, but I’ll imagine Conor [O’Shea] will tell me whether I’m in or out towards that time. I’ve never been to Japan so it would be good, especially with the upcoming Rugby World Cup. To get out there before the World Cup, test what’s out there and see what the conditions are like. I’m really excited for that.”

‘You’ve had some season individually.’

”It’s been a bit overwhelming at times, gone from watching the first few games and now being part of the squad. It’s really good and to get that Six Nations start in the last game, that was massively overwhelming at the Rome stadium.”

‘What was that experience like?’

”It was unbelievable, first time I’ve played in front of a massive crowd. I watched the game before vs. Wales at the Principality stadium and I was just the travelling reserve so I took in the atmosphere, that was mental. The crowd are right on the pitch at the Principality. Luckily at the Rome stadium there’s an athletic track around the edge so it gives you more space, bit it’s still a mental atmosphere. I really enjoyed that.”

‘Last year you were playing with Seb Negri at Hartpury, now you’re both in a back row with Sergio Parisse, what did that feel like?’

”It’s mental and me and Seb Negri are really good friends so it was good to share that with him. It was really good to be in the shirt with him. We spoke about it and that was good.

‘What were your targets at the start of the season?’

”I was just coming in, I was one of the young lads looking to see if I could put my hat in the ring and see what happened from there. I wasn’t expecting any of this, definitely not playing international rugby. That was definitely not on the ticklist. Just excited and it shows in the opportunities I’ve been given here. Playing a few games here and there and that’s been recognised elsewhere.”

‘On the opportunity created for himself’

”Playing a few Prem games and then Conor messaging me and keeping in touch has been really good and I’m living the dream now.”

‘On his dad coming to watch him’

”He loves it, any excuse for a holiday, he’ll be out there. He just loves rugby so he’ll come to any game regardless of where it is. He didn’t go in the shed, mainly because he won’t buy a ticket.”

‘Choosing his country’

”There’s a lot of if’s and when’s, but Conor contacted me first and if I went with the England route I don’t think there’d be any chance of going to the World Cup. So going through that I think that’s the best opportunity for mE. International rugby is international rugby, no matter where you play it so I’m just glad with my decision.”

John Kingston

‘On a brave and valiant performance’

”That’s absolutely right, it was on a knife edge at 16-9 with 10 minutes left. I just said that to the guys. The effort and commitment was excellent and where it should be every week. So that’s the minimum standard and we nearly got there, but made too many errors with ball in hand and Gloucester took their chances and deserved to win the game.”

‘On the amount of handling errors’

”There were a few, kicked the ball away where if we kept possession of the ball it would have been alright. We turned the ball over two or three times where we made line breaks. The composure, it’s too easy to say in hindsight, but I sensed coming into the game. I knew the effort was going to be there because the guys are stunned at the performance last week and not happy with it in any which way or form. They care about the club and I just sensed there was a lot of emotion and quite a lot of snatching at things in the warm up. Just a little bit of tension in the desire to achieve. You couldn’t fault their effort, for trying things and showing ambition which we said all week we needed to do. The execution of it wasn’t quite there.”

‘How difficult a week has it been for you personally and for the team’

”Probably less so for me, because I knew a couple of weeks back from a personal perspective, so it’s not about me. For the players, probably I think it’s fair to say. I think the main thing was, parking me for a second, was that they were stunned by the level of performance and the lack of it on Monday and they made a commitment to each other that this can’t happen. I thought the response throughout the week was excellent. There was never any doubt in my mind that the desire was going to be there and on the day not a lot went for us. You have to make these things happen and we just lacked that precision.”

‘Some big performances in there individually’ 

[on Robshaw] Outstanding. I thought, alright Danny [Care] made a few decisions on the ball, but the amount of effort he was putting in defensively to fill the field and work. Mike Brown was taking people on left, right and centre until he came off. Marler was hitting people hard, Sinckler was taking the ball up. James Horwill was leading from the front. Mat Laumanu got better as the game went on. Joe Marchant started running hard at people. There’s a lot of really positive things to take out of this performance individually. That tells you that quite a few people put their effort in. For me it’s about minimum standards. we have two games left and the minimum, standards are that the desire effort and commitment has to be there in Worcester in two weeks time. Then, hopefully a bit more composure and we might be able to get a smile on our faces and get a win.”

‘Jack Clifford is out for season’

”It looks like he’s torn his hamstring off the bone which would mean end of season and potentially having to have surgery. We’ll see about that, that’s an initial prognosis. He’s had a really rotten run of luck, but summer’s coming and hopefully can get the operation done and then he can get started again next season.”

”He’s had a tough time and he came on against Saracens and the player he is, you realise why you miss him. We’ve got a few good players who have been missing, but I feel for him as he’s put a lot of effort in to get to this point.”

‘Mike Brown a doubt’

Foot, I don’t quite know the extent of it. He just said he was struggling to push off. I think he must have caught it in that clean break where he picked up the ball and went. He was just honest enough to say that it doesn’t feel as if I can push off and run at 100%. As much as I’m sure he’d love to stay on, if he’s not quite right then there’s no point, but didn’t Lang do well when he came on.”

 

For a full match catch-up and player ratings click on the links below:

Gloucester v Harlequins player ratings

Gloucester seal bonus point in stunning last ten minutes

 

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