Gloucester return to Gallagher Premiership at Kingsholm this weekend with Freddie Clarke awaiting a physical Worcester side. The utility forward has also looked back at England’s Autumn campaign, but insists that despite their injury worries he isn’t getting carried away about getting a call-up.
Clarke disappointed with Exeter Chiefs defeat
Following the defeat to Exeter Gloucester slid to fourth in the table as the gap to the top two expanded. Looking back at the game Clarke said, ”We always knew it was a tough place to go to and they’ve proved over a number of years that they’re one of the teams to beat. We were certainly in the game, but we didn’t capitalise on our opportunities when we got in the right areas of the field. We literally gave Exeter a few sniffs and they came away with those two tries.
”If we want to compete with these teams we have to come away with something. Getting penalties is great, but if you come away with no tries under your belt then it can be frustrating. They didn’t have as many opportunities, but they came away and capitalised with two tries.”
Gloucester comfortable with gameplan despite first game without a try
The defeat to Exeter was the first game of the season where Gloucester failed to score a try, but Clarke insists that Gloucester are happy with how they play saying, ”We play pretty expansive rugby so we believe tries will come naturally, but it was one of those games where we couldn’t really capitalise when we entered their 22.”
Premiership loss delivers knowledge ahead of Champions Cup clash
With two games against the Chiefs coming up in the Champions Cup Johan Ackermann’s men will be more prepared for the fight, but they’re aware that Exeter now know what to expect. ”Definitely, we’ll have a better understanding, but on the flipside they’ll have a better understanding of us when we go back down there. It’s important that we keep a few things in the locker and hopefully right a few wrongs.” Said Clarke.
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The loss to the league leaders did give them insight into how they need to improve before Saturday’s derby with Worcester. Freddie Clarke noted ”Just ball retention when we’re in their half. We got in the right areas, but we didn’t keep the ball for long enough and we couldn’t sustain the pressure on them and it allowed them to kick it out.
”They’ve performed very well this year. Last year when we faced them they were physical up front so we’re expecting that. Their set piece ability is strong so if we can nullify that then it’ll put us in good stead for the game.
”If we can build momentum and put a win streak together then it’ll help us and give us a bit more confidence. We’re taking it game by game though and aren’t getting too far ahead of ourselves.
”We’re back at home and we want to put on a good performance. They haven’t changed too much since last season. We’ve looked at them up front, they’re physical and we know what they’ll bring. It’s about nullifying that and how we’re going to control our set piece and dominate them in those areas.”
Clarke awaiting physical Worcester test
Having such a versatile set of forwards can often pose different challenges to that of teams with ‘just’ a big pack. Clarke is looking forward to the challenge saying it matches Gloucester’s back row.
”It’s pretty exciting. I pride myself on being physical yet mobile and I think our back row is full of big guys who are mobile so it’ll be a great competition.”
Clarke has been a true utility forward this season having featured in both the second and back rows. Despite the obvious challenges that comes with it Clarke was very happy with how his season has gone to date. Clarke saying, ”I’m very capable of playing those positions, I’m happy to put my hand up for those roles. Last season I was getting the chance and if I wasn’t involved I wasn’t too happy, but certainly this season my mindset has shifted and I want to be in that 23 every game so I’m pushing for that starting spot every week.”
England injury worries not concerning Clarke
Despite a changed up back row due to the smorgasbord of injuries Eddie Jones’ men have endured over the last few weeks and months Freddie Clarke was pleased to see how well England came up in their autumn series.
”Injury wise they were thin on the ground, but I think it showed it showed the depth of the whole England structure to come away with some great victories over the southern hemisphere teams and they were unfortunate to lose against the All Blacks.” Said Clarke.
Despite good form Clarke isn’t worried about England call up
Gloucester’s team ethos is very much taking one game at a time and Freddie Clarke represents that very well. Looking forward he’s aware of where he needs to improve, but doesn’t have a timeframe or aim of England duties just yet, saying, ”I just need to get more games under my belt and hopefully opportunities will come off the back of performances. I pride myself on set piece, carrying or tackling I just need to make sure I nail down each of those roles in my game.”
With such a strong back row unit at Kingsholm with the likes of Jake Polledri returning from Italy duty, Jaco Kriel now starting to feature in the matchday squad and Lewis Ludlow and Ruan Ackermann to return the competition for the shirt is great says Clarke. ”It’ll be great. We always push each other on and with Jaco Kriel and Lewis Ludlow coming back we all work together and push each other to be better players. It’s exciting and it’ll push me on.”
Gloucester Rugby take on Worcester Warriors on Saturday, 3pm BST
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