George Skivington: Gloucester’s head coach on the team’s rise from bottom dogs into contenders

Gloucester players finish their pre-match warm-up at Kingsholm
Their success this season is due to Gloucester's team unity

Let's go back 12 months, and Gloucester had endured a miserable Premiership run that saw them lose eight times in succession, and win only once.

They were at the bottom of the table, and their appointment as head coach George Skivington raised questions.

The turnaround of the Cherry and Whites is evident a year later. Nine Premiership wins are now their record, more than they achieved for the entire season.

They were second at the bottom in last summer's competition, while they currently sit third and look strong.

Skivington stated that the difference this year is because we put so much effort last year, BBC Sport.

Skivington, 37, had never before been a coach before he was appointed to the Kingsholm top job.

He has a “pretty thick complexion” but he also knows that Gloucester is small and that people won't tell him he's rubbish.

He stated, “There were many times last year that I would have sat down with groups of people and said “Keep the Faith, Keep Going”.”

“The beauty about last year as an entire group is that we've felt that heat and felt the judgement. We don't want back there.” But I did see some truly amazing people put on their sleeves and just keep going.

Crazy first year

Gloucester's progress is evident throughout the pitch. In all competitions, they have won ten of their 13 previous matches.

After 14 Premiership matches, they have scored 47 tries. This is an increase of two compared to last season. Their penalty kicking success rate is high, they have the most tackles and their maul dominates the league.

Skivington did not know any of the players or staff when he was appointed. He insists that much of the turnaround is due to the success of that period of bedding in.

He said, “It takes time to find the right way you work together.” “I would have done a thought-process of how I would want to run things. But I discovered guys with extraordinary qualities and strengths I can harness.

“I have been able to trust them over time to deliver the messages or deal with problems as I wanted them.”

“All that stuff and a playing team we didn't understand, along with changing all of the systems, it was a wild first year.”

Gloucester head coach George Skivington
Skivington, an ex-lock, took over Kingsholm as head coach in 2020.

Gloucester lost seven matches last season by seven points or less. It is remarkable that they were able to win games this season.

“Occasionally, we got stuck with saying, “We know that we can win, there are 10 minutes to go and we're down two points, how can we win it?”

“Now everybody is aligned in the belief that “this is how it is, this is how all of us see it together, and you have to make smart decisions about the pitch.” There is probably a greater alignment and understanding.

“You can't bring a team together.”

Since Skivington's arrival the core of the Gloucester squad has remained, with captain Lewis Ludlow and Jonny May among the many players who have played more than 100 games for the club.

Opportunities were given to people who had not previously been able to, which has resulted in a stronger bond that is very beneficial.

Skivington stated, “I don’t believe that the only way to build a successful squad is signing lots of superstars.”

“You've got a long way to go together, I know we will pull through, you're tight, we have enough experiences together'. This could be here, on the night out, or dealing with issues in your relationship.

“You can not whip a team together to say we are a great group. Because those things that happen away form the pitch, they happen over the course of time.”

Gloucester's maul gets going in the win over Bath
Gloucester's maul has been a dominating force and produced more tries this term than any other team.

This team unity is best illustrated by Gloucester's driving maul. It has been a key area for their success, producing nearly 30 tries in all competitions, and gaining metres across the pitch.

Skivington, a former lock, admits that he “just loves mauling”. He's received numerous calls from coaches across the globe trying to find the secret to his success. But he insists that it is only putting in the time on the training field.

“It was something I wanted to build a bit more culture around. He said that Gloucester was traditionally set-piece dominant, and The Shed loved it. “I wanted to recreate that buzz around here,” he added.

It's “probably the most important area of the game to show how tight you are as an ensemble because if one of your players doesn't work hard, or loses his roll then the maul isn't going to work.”

Only once has Gloucester finished among the Premiership's top 3 in the last decade. This year, it would be a significant achievement to achieve this feat again.

Skivington isn’t getting ahead of his own.

He said that the boys take pride in many different things now than they did 18-months ago, and it's beginning to show results.

“The best part about it as a coach, and the most exciting bit is when you walk in to grab a coffee, and there are four guys sitting around discussing the kicking game or strategy.

“Sometimes they already have the answers. That's what drives the real growth within this group.

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