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‘Ruthless’ Premiership is undervalued as a competition, says George Skivington

Gloucester's Director of Rugby George Skivington during the EPCR Challenge Cup Quarter Final match between Gloucester Rugby and Ospreys at Kingsholm Stadium on April 12, 2024 in Gloucester, England
'The Premiership deserves a lot of respect for sure,' George Skivington said - Getty Images/Bob Bradford

The standard of the Premiership has been “underestimated” according to George Skivington, the Gloucester director of rugby, after three English teams qualified for a European semi-final.

Northampton and Harlequins will travel to Leinster and Toulouse respectively next month hoping to earn a place in the Champions Cup final, but the Premiership’s best chance of European silverware might come in the Challenge Cup. Should Gloucester defeat Italian side Benetton in the second-tier competition, one of Clermont Auvergne or Sharks awaits in May’s final.

While Skivington concedes the deeper pockets of the French and Irish sides affords them more depth – Leinster, favourites to lift the Champions Cup with the bookmakers, announced on Monday that star All Black Jordie Barrett would join on a sabbatical in December – the “ruthlessness” of the Premiership means that the English sides are punching above their weight.

“What’s fair is that there is a lot more money in those competitions – the French and Irish – and they have an advantage there,” said Skivington. “But people underestimate how tough the Premiership is as a competition; it’s absolutely ruthless. This year, you win or lose a couple of games, and that is the difference between sitting where we are right now [in ninth] and sitting with a play-off opportunity.

“People definitely underestimate it. Quins and Saints have done a great job in getting to those semi-finals and turning over some quality teams in doing so. The Premiership deserves a lot of respect for sure.

“What the money allows you to do is have more depth rather than quality. There are loads of those [top-quality] players in England but the money allows these teams to have real depth in their squads. With Premiership teams, what you tend to find is that if you lose a couple of players in one position, you’re very much reliant on an academy lad.

“It’s never going to be a level playing field but, in the Premiership, there are some really good coaches getting a lot of value out of players. The league is in a good spot, it’s absolutely ruthless and we’ve seen the sharp end of it this year.”

Gloucester travel to a wounded Saracens, who have conceded over 80 points in their last two losses, in the Premiership this weekend. Although Saracens’ European ambitions ended at the hands of Bordeaux in the quarter-finals, backs coach Kevin Sorrell concurred with Skivington’s assessment – albeit through gritted teeth.

“Yeah, I was really happy for Quins,” said Sorrell wryly, before adding: “It was good that the English clubs had a good show in Europe. We have obviously not been competitive and, over the last four years, it has been tough to get into the semis. So, to have a couple of representatives there is really good for the English game.”

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