Ackermann expecting physical battle at Thomond

Danny Cipriani
GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 14: Gloucester player Danny Cipriani in action during the Champions Cup match between Gloucester Rugby and Castres Olympique at Kingsholm Stadium on October 14, 2018 in Gloucester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Coming off the back of a solid opening win against Castres last Sunday Johan Ackermann’s men have had a tough turnaround of less than a week to prepare for their next challenge. Thomond Park is always a partisan place to travel to and Ackermann is aware of just how physical a task it will be to walk away with the win.

Castres recovery well underway

”We had a good Monday recovery and the boys looked good today. We’re waiting on Fraser Balmain for his scan, but apart from that everyone has got through the match well and by Saturday we’ll be ready to go.”

Gloucester bring in the re-enforcements

Gloucester have added Alex Craig (lock) and Gareth Evans (back row) to their European squads after de-registering Jaco Kriel and Mariano Galarza.

Ackermann realised the squad depth was becoming threadbare and said ”It helps a lot, if like Ed Slater you don’t pass the fitness test then in midweek it caught us off guard. It looks like he can maybe make it for the weekend, but if not we’ve got Alex Craig who can come on the bench and we wont have to use our hooker and winger.”

Ackermann ready for Munster challenge

The first round of European fixtures were marred by bad weather, but his side are prepared for that saying ”If it does come Saturday that’ll be a good test for us. They had a hell of a wind, sometimes that’s worse to play in. Luckily with us the wind was quiet, so it’s difficult to read into the game tactically. They can keep the ball and are a resilient side, they’ll keep on fighting and showed they’re defensively strong.

What I’ve heard is it’s a real great place to play because the crowd is lively, noise and behind their team. It’s a passionate crowd. It’s a special feeling and it takes a while to soak in the atmosphere and hopefully it’s something we can experience.

They’ve been very successful in the past in this competition, but we control our own destiny on the pitch. We just have to put everything out there. They’ll be tough. They make the breakdown quite messy because they’re hard on it and make you fight for everything.”

Eddie Jones’ eye on Cherry and White call-ups

Johan Ackermann jokes that England call-ups aren’t the best thing for his side,  ”If I put my Gloucester hat on it’s not a boost, but it will be pleasing when a team gets players into an international squad.”

The main two contenders behind the usual suspects at Kingsholm are Ben Morgan and Val Rapava Ruskin. Ackermann strongly believes they can make the initial squad.  ”Hopefully it’s reward for them through their hard work. I challenged them [Ben Morgan and Val Rapava Ruskin] to be in better condition and both those players changed a lot physically. They lost the necessary weight and are playing good rugby. Val had a tough year with Gloucester due to injuries. He couldn’t get a lot of form together. When we did pre season he was running infront of all our front rowers.

It’s either two ways, you challenge him and he [Ben Morgan] goes out and does it or the door gets shut in another place and he comes to a new environment to get his full potential.

There’s no doubt they’ve got the potential.”

Eddie Jones has been noted for his five appearances at Kingsholm games this season, but he’s also been working with the coaching staff, formulating a list of players he believes are in contention for England call-ups. ”He’s been at Kingsholm a lot, but he’s come to me about a month ago with a list of players that they were considering. At that stage Ben wasn’t on there. Val has always been on their radar with Danny and some others.”

Gloucester travel to Munster this Saturday with both teams unbeaten.

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