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Jeremy Guscott column

Jeremy Guscott
By Jeremy Guscott
Former Bath, England and Lions centre

There is no doubt that Harlequins second row George Robson is plonker of the week.

George Robson (right) receives his marching orders on Saturday
Robson (right) was sent off after only 46 seconds at Twickenham

After the 'bloodgate' saga, the last thing Quins needed was to have a player sent off in the first minute of their opening game of the season for head-butting an opponent.

Unlike 'bloodgate', which saw fake blood pouring from Tom Williams's mouth, Robson's actions left Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson with real blood coming out of his nose.

Robson's stupidity cost Quins the game and put them back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

It was definitely not my week for getting predictions right but I believe the opening games tell us that this season's race for the four Guinness Premiership play-off places is going to go right to the wire.

The results were all very close bar the Wasps v Harlequins game, which saw Quins play with 14 men for 79 minutes, and the derby at Kingsholm, where opportunistic tries from James Simpson-Daniel and Nicky Robinson boosted Gloucester's winning margin over Bath.

In the other four games the biggest winning margin was only four points, with one of the games - Leeds v Newcastle - ending in a draw.

Sale to lose to Leicester
[Result: Sale 15-12 Leicester]
Saracens to lose to London Irish [Saracens 18-14 London Irish]
Wasps to lose to Harlequins [Wasps 26-15 Harlequins]
Gloucester to lose to Bath [Gloucester 24-5 Bath]
Leeds to beat Newcastle
[Leeds 9-9 Newcastle]
Northampton to beat Worcester [Northampton 20-17 Worcester]

I was at the Gloucester v Bath derby on Sunday and it's already very apparent that new boss Brian Redpath and his coaching team have got a good vibe going at the Cherry and Whites.

They may not have any real superstars but they have a very good work ethic and great sense of togetherness.

Former All Black prop Greg Somerville was all over the park grafting and Scotland blind-side Alasdair Strokosch and new captain Gareth Delve both carried the ball well.

Simpson-Daniel looked electric every time he got the ball and scored two tries, the first a well-worked overlap and the second a straightforward sprint after intercepting inside his own 22.

For Gloucester and England fans, and neutrals who enjoy watching expressive players, I hope the injury-prone Simpson-Daniel has an injury-free season this time.

New Gloucester fly-half Robinson was sublime, picking up where he left off with Cardiff Blues last season.

His tactical kicking and overall game management were superb and he was the big difference, because when you compare Robinson to Ryan Davis, Bath's fly-half, it was man against boy.

Gloucester winger James Simpson-Daniel celebrates his second try in the win over Bath on Sunday
The talented Simpson-Daniel confirmed his class with a double

Bath scored a well-constructed try late in the second half through Shontayne Hape and although it was too little to late, it will at least give them the belief that they can create and finish opportunities.

But let's not pretend that coach Steve Meehan will have been happy with their performance because Bath couldn't get any consistent possession and when they did get the ball they couldn't convert good phases of play and far too often ended up making basic errors in good positions.

Meehan will be praying Springbok fly-half Butch James returns from injury soon to help give them some control.

Last season the Michael Claassens/James axis worked very well at half-back and judging by Claassens' variable performance on Sunday he is missing James's presence by his side.

London Irish could and should have beaten Saracens but life is going to be very tough for last season's beaten finalists as everyone now knows how good they are and will raise their game accordingly.

Coming to terms with being favourites to win most games this season will be a mental hurdle for Irish overcome.

Sale's win over Leicester will be a great boost to their confidence after losing so many players during the summer, while despite their defeat by Wasps, Harlequins will still do well this season.


Their backs look sharp and if the forwards can give them enough ball they will cause no end of problems for teams.

For Wasps, Danny Cipriani looked confident, notably when he set up Tom Varndell for his first try.

Cipriani still needs to work on his defence and game management but if he sorts out these areas it won't be long before he's back in England boss Martin Johnson's first-team squad.

Northampton, meanwhile, will take a lot of confidence from their fightback against Worcester because they showed they won't panic if they go behind.

Having said that, if they want to be in with a shout of honours they can't afford to give better teams the kind of start they gave Worcester, because they won't always recover from trailing by 17 points.

Finally, Leeds won't be too disappointed with their return to the Premiership. Of course they would have wanted the win but a draw against Newcastle at least means they have points on the board at the first opportunity.

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see also
Robson hit by headbutt suspension
08 Sep 09 |  Harlequins
'Head-butt' compounds Quins woes
05 Sep 09 |  Harlequins
Wasps 26-15 Harlequins
05 Sep 09 |  Rugby Union
Gloucester 24-5 Bath
06 Sep 09 |  English
Northampton 20-17 Worcester
06 Sep 09 |  English
Leeds 9-9 Newcastle
06 Sep 09 |  English
Saracens 18-14 London Irish
05 Sep 09 |  Rugby Union
Sale 15-12 Leicester
04 Sep 09 |  English
Rugby union on the BBC
05 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union

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