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Even with Gloucester in the hunt for a top-four finish ahead of Saracens' visit next weekend to Kingsholm, their head coach George Skivington remained humble enough to admit after his contract extension announcement on Tuesday that "the club did take a punt on me" when they hired Skivington from London Irish back in 2020.
You could forgive the Gloucester board at the end of last season for wondering if they had made the right choice. Gloucester finished the 2020-21 campaign in 12th place, above only Worcester, with seven wins out of 22 matches in the Premiership.
Patience can be hard to come by in the professional game but across the board Gloucester were putting the building blocks in place, starting with Skivington's work to improve the flagging set-piece but extending to Alex King's work on the attack and Dom Waldouck, who is still only 34, putting in place a new defensive system. In all those areas this season, Gloucester's hard work is beginning to bear fruit.
Skivington, 39 and the Premiership's youngest head coach, has delivered on his promise when appointed two years ago to restore some bite back into Gloucester's forwards, with the likes of Ruan Ackermann, Lewis Ludlow and Freddie Clarke producing some of the best rugby of their careers. The recent 64-0 win over Bath has been a highlight, the fact that Bath left Kingsholm without scoring a point pleasing Skivington more than the glut of tries.
Making the top four with a round to go is a tricky task and will hinge on Gloucester - now in fifth place and two points off the top four - defeating Saracens and Northampton Saints slipping up at home to Newcastle Falcons. But whether they make the play-offs or not, Gloucester will finish the season in a much better place.
'My ambition is to prove the club right and show them that they’ve hired the right guy'
"There were higher-profile coaches that they could have gone for which would have been the easy option in terms of people’s perceptions," Skivington said reflecting on his appointment two years ago.
“My ambition is to prove them right and show them that they’ve hired the right guy and I’ll continue to do that. We want to be a successful club year after year.
“What we’ve done over the last couple of years is lay really good foundations. We’ve grown the way we play and the culture so that everyone knows what’s expected of them day to day. There’s huge untapped potential and that’s massively exciting.”
Lance Bradley, Gloucester's chief executive added: “We’ve been delighted with what George has brought to the club. We have a long-term vision for success both on and off the field, and George has made, and continues to make, a significant contribution towards that.
“Nothing that’s worth having comes without teamwork and a lot of hard work over a period of time. This season we’re starting to see the results of that teamwork and hard work, and with the extension of George’s contract, we’re sure we’ll see things building further over the next few seasons.”