Gloucester wing Charlie Sharples urges squad to keep their heads down after street brawl | Rugby Union | Sport

2 months ago
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Normality returns today in the shape of a Premiership trip to Wasps, but the late-night incident in Cheltenham which prompted a spate of lurid headlines has served as a reminder to the Gloucester squad of their goldfish-bowl existence.

Few places in England place rugby union professionals on such a pedestal, but that brings with it lofty responsibilities.

For long-serving wing Charlie Sharples, who has been at the club for a decade, the 21 Club cloud is not the first he has encountered.

“It is difficult. It comes with the territory. We live in a rugby-mad city and we have fantastic support but the flip side of that is people know who you are,” said Sharples.

“I’ve never had any issues but I’ve seen it with the guys getting into trouble locally when I was younger. There have always been things going on over the years.

“There are places we can go as a team where they know us and they like to have us in. They enjoy the guys going there.

“But like any young professional sportsman now with social media and the limelight you just have to be careful of what you do in the public domain. You are there to be scrutinised. We’re all aware of that.

“Fortunately this sort of thing doesn’t happen too often and when it does it blows out more externally than internally. It may be a big deal for the fans and the media but for us as a squad it’s very much business as usual. We carry on and nothing really changes.”

Whether the backdraft impacts on Gloucester at the Ricoh Arena remains to be seen.

The Ackermanns have been key figures in the turnaround which has exchanged seasons of mediocrity for second place in the Premiership.

Ruan is the league’s player of the month and Johan an enlightened head coach who took the Lions to the Super Rugby final and has brought the same brand of run-from-anywhere rugby to Kingsholm.

“Without a doubt Johan coming in has changed things. We’re very clear on the way we want to play and we have confidence in that,” said Sharples.

“One of his main things is to play with no fear and to inspire people and we have found our Gloucester way of playing and it has been working for us. We’ve had a decent run over the last few months hence where we are sitting at the moment. 

“We’re keeping hold of the ball a lot more – that’s paid dividends for us – and when you win games you get that confidence and it becomes habitual. You have that belief you’re going to close games out. We haven’t had that over the last few years. You can see the other side of that at the moment in some good teams who are on a run of losses.

“In glimpses over the years we’ve shown how good we can be with some great wins but we’ve never had that consistency.

“These are early days but we are starting to realise some of our potential. Personally, I’d love to stay in the top four and get in the play-offs.”

Five Premiership wins on the trot is their best run since the 2010/11 season when they went on to finish third and make what was the club’s last appearance in the play-offs.

Can they keep it up? Today’s date at last year’s finalists with all the distractions of the past week will give a strong indicator of just how resilient the new Gloucester are.