Gloucester Rugby scrum-half Joe Simpson says the Cherry and Whites’ squad have been given a new lease of life under a coaching regime which includes three of his former Wasps team-mates.
The 32-year-old admits it is a “bit strange” having to take orders from three men he used to line up alongside on the field, head coach George Skivington, attack coach Alex King and defence coach Dom Waldouck – while Trevor Woodman was the club’s forwards coach.
“It is a bit odd,” he said. “When I first came in I was a youngster but as a nine you have to have a bit of voice and you have to boss around the forwards and George was one of my forwards
“I was trying to get stuck into him on the pitch and screaming at him and now he is the boss – but I feel like we have a good working relationship.
“It is something I am really enjoying and it is the whole squad – not just the guys who have worked with him before – it has given the whole squad a new lease of life.
“It is Kingy as well – he is bringing his excitement and his knowledge into the team and Dom’s enthusiasm for defence is really contagious.
“You saw that in our performance at Worcester, both with and without the ball – that’s something we have been working really hard on.
“We are looking to build those combinations make sure we are a far more clinical team as I felt in the first two thirds of the season we let ourselves down in a few areas.
“We weren’t as silky smooth as we wanted to be with people reading off different hymn sheets and we have put a bit more work in managing our way around the pitch.
“The coaches have been great, really giving us confidence to play when we want to but also putting a nice structure in place.
“That’s nice that it worked for them at Worcester – you don’t see immediately things working for them but you could see a different way that we are trying to play the game.”
Simpson came to Gloucester last season under former head coach Johan Ackermann and added: “I have got massive respect for all the coaches that have left.
“I really enjoyed working with them and under them so it is no slight on them but I have been extremely excited about the new coaching team – not just George, it is Dom, and Kingy with Trev as well.
“I know they are four Wasps there but they have all been fantastic with the enthusiasm and knowledge they have brought
“We all feel more clinical as a team and we feel more structured. It feels more comfortable
“George has been fantastic at motivating the troops but also because he wasn’t playing too long ago he understand where boys are mentally and physically – everything he has done so far has been spot on
“It has been an absolute pleasure to work with him so far and hopefully it lasts quite a while.”
Simpson described former Wasps and England fly-half King as “one of the most knowledgeable men out there when it comes to rugby.”
He said that King, who recently joined the club from Montpellier and has worked with the Wales national team, just keeps it simple.
“We want to soak up everything that he has got,” said Simpson. “One thing I have noticed which has surprised me slightly – he hasn’t overloaded us with information
“It is easy to come in as a new coach and try to assert yourself and get all of your names on things and your drills but he has come in, spectated a bit, dropped in a little bit here and there, but he keeps meetings very short and sharp.
“We only have one or two key points and that is massively beneficial for us as it is easy to come in and overload the boys, then the boys get confused and go off page.
“But he has come in, simplified things and made sure we are comfortable and happy.
“He is enthusiastic and he will come and grab you and say ‘have a look at this or have a look at that’ .
“As an older scrum-half, people think that you know a lot but I am still desperate to learn and all the older members of the squad still have so much they can learn from Alex – he is bringing little intricacies to rugby that you haven’t really thought about.”
Simpson says the new coaching team have looked to bring in a more structured game-plan, asking the team to look to play the percentages more often.
“If you look before my time here, the season before, you saw a really free-flowing Gloucester – they would attack from everywhere on the pitch and it really paid dividends,” he said.
“They were up there with the best attacking team in the Premiership – they scored a lot of tries and the defence was good.
“That worked. We played the same game, we tried to get better at it, but we took a few steps backwards, although I think we did get unlucky with the weather – almost every single match we played was wet so that free-flowing rugby isn’t the right game.
“We possibly pursued it a bit too much, tried to keep too many options and ended up hanging ourselves in our own half a lot of the time looking for that miracle ball or looking for that run when it possibly wasn’t the safest option.
“We hamstrung ourselves a bit and and the amount of points we conceded at the start of the season from penalties really crippled us in our field position and points on the board.
“So we have understood where we are at, understood that we have got some fantastic players and if it’s on it’s on, but at the same time we know we have to play in the right areas of the pitch.
“We know the most efficient teams are willing to try things but they have a very structured way of playing and a very disciplined way of playing
“If you are on the same hymn sheet it’s a lot easier to build that confidence and that is what we are trying to do – we went slightly away from playing the percentages at the start of the year and that cost us.”