Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Humphreys warning for Gloucester

Wales international James Hook, who is one of Gloucester's star signings for the new season

David Humphreys is well aware of the enormous expectation that surrounds English rugby's sleeping giants Gloucester.

One look at the lengthy list of incoming players at Kingsholm this summer is enough to set the pulse racing.

They have arrived from all parts - internationals like Welshmen James Hook and Richard Hibbard, Scotland's Greig Laidlaw, New Zealander John Afoa and England's Tom Palmer - while Humphreys, in his role as director of rugby, heads a new-look team off the pitch.

Australian Laurie Fisher has taken up an appointment as head coach, while Humphreys' staff also includes former Wallabies defence specialist John Muggleton and ex-Gloucester and England prop Trevor Woodman, who looks after scrummaging work.

It represents a huge change in personnel, and there will be those who might anticipate a quick fix as Gloucester look to climb from the lows of last season's ninth-place Aviva Premiership finish that cost Humphreys' predecessor Nigel Davies his job.

"When I first took the job, someone told me who had been here a long time that the expectation among Gloucester supporters is that they are going to win the league almost every year," said Humphreys, speaking during Gloucester's pre-season media day on Thursday.

"So we've got to manage that and understand that is the environment we are coming into.

"Putting a team together is not as simple as bringing in good players and good coaches, and then hoping it all works. There is a certain chemistry that needs to be there.

"There has been a huge amount of work that has gone on in pre-season. Physically, the players are in great shape, but it is very hard to start talking about where we are going to finish and make predictions.

"If you look at the quality of player in the Gloucester squad, the quality of player that has been here for a number of years and then you add in the international-quality players who have been recruited over the last few months, there is no doubt it is a very good squad.

"But it takes more than that.

"I f you look throughout the Premiership, a lot of the teams we will be competing with have also recruited very well and strengthened, so it is very hard to know where we are going to sit.

"By November, when we have gone through the first phase of Premiership games, that will give us a better feel of where we are and a better feel of what needs to be done and how we are going to do it."

Humphreys, 42, has arrived in the west country following a long and successful career as player and then administrator with Ulster.

The former fly-half won 72 Ireland caps and captained Ulster to Heineken Cup glory in 1999, and Gloucester know they have recruited an individual of outstanding quality.

"This is a hugely-exciting and hugely-challenging move for me," Humphreys added.

"This opportunity came along out of the blue. I sat and thought about it for a couple of days, and it was a gut-reaction - it felt like a really big challenge.

"It's a fantastic place and everyone knows the history associated with this club. It is very similar to Ulster with a hugely-passionate following and for me this was an opportunity I felt was the right one from a family and rugby point of view.

"Laurie has got very clear views on how we want to play and there are very good players here who are able to adapt and are used to working under different coaches and playing different styles.

"A lot of new players have come in, together with seven new members of staff, and we are all hugely-motivated, ambitious and driven to bring success to this club."

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