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Gloucester: BTSport.com's Gallagher Premiership 2019/20 season preview

After an impressive third place finish last season, the Cherry and Whites will look to back up that progress with another top-four finish and a real crack at Premiership glory.

Last season's Gallagher Premiership finish: 3rd (W13 D1 L8 - Pts 68)

This season's target: Another top-four finish

Last season's top try scorer: Charlie Sharples (10)

Odds to win the Premiership: 16/1 (odds correct at time of writing)

First four fixtures: Sale (A) Wasps (H), Leicester (A), Saracens (H)

Transfers in: Joe Simpson (Wasps), Jamal Ford-Robinson (Northampton Saints), Chris Harris (Newcastle Falcons), Simon Linsell (Hartpury College), Corne Fourie (Stormers)

Transfers out: Paddy McAllister (Connacht), Ben Vellacott (Wasps), Tom Savage (Suntory Sungoliath), Gareth Denman (Coventry), Kyle Traynor (Rosslyn Park), Callum Allen (Nottingham), Ewan Fenley (Ealing Trailfinders), Joe Mullis (Cinderford), Cameron Terry (Ealing Trailfinders), Henry Purdy (Coventry), Gareth Evans (Ospreys), Will Safe (Hartpury College)

Never want to miss an Gloucester game? You can watch live matches all season long in the Gallagher Premiership, Premiership Rugby Cup and Heineken Champions Cup on BT Sport. If you’re not yet a subscriber, find out how we can get you signed up in just 15 minutes.

Read on for BTSport.com's in-depth Gloucester season preview, or check out more from our exclusive series:

Bath | Bristol Bears | Exeter Chiefs | Harlequins | Leicester Tigers | London Irish | Northampton Saints | Saracens | Sale Sharks | Wasps | Worcester Warriors

Join now to watch Gallagher Premiership Rugby all season long on BT Sport

The story of last season

The Cherry and Whites made significant progress in Johan Ackermann’s second season in charge as they secured a top-four finish for the first time since 2011.

They finished the season almost in a league of their own, never truly pushing for a home semi-final but comfortably in the play-offs as the race for fourth went down to the wire.

Despite Ben Morgan’s score giving them hope of upsetting the Premiership holders on their own patch, Saracens proved too strong in the semi-final.

Mark McCall’s men ran out 44-19 winners on the day as they progressed to the Twickenham showpiece and ultimately lifted the trophy once again.

But for Gloucester it was a true season of progress as they finally started to deliver on the promise they have hinted at for several years.

Danny Cipriani made an instant impact after arriving from Wasps and went on to be named Player of the Year by the Rugby Players Association.

The fly-half helped light up Kingsholm, as did team-mate Ollie Thorley who won Young Player of the Year, and set the tone for the West Country outfit.

Having posted their highest points total since topping the regular season table in 2007/08, fans will be hoping to build on that impressive foundation in 2019/20.

Hopes for this season

Progress. It’s as simple as that.

Gloucester need to ensure that last season’s impressive third place finish was not a flash in the pan but the start of a new dawn.

We all saw what happened with Newcastle Falcons last season – suffering relegation on the back of a top-four finish – and while that is a very dramatic change in fortunes, the same drop-off cannot happen for Ackermann’s men.

The target will no doubt be another top-four finish to give themselves a shot at the ultimate prize but they know competition will be as stiff as ever.

Having only lost five players to the World Cup, the early weeks of the season could represent a key time for the Cherry and Whites as they look to build momentum.

Getting some early points on the board would be the perfect platform to head into their first Champions Cup campaign for seven years.

Balancing European competition with domestic demands will be tough for the 2015 Challenge Cup winners, but a dilemma they will surely want.

In short securing play-off berth, preferably sewn up with some games to spare, while maintaining a good showing in Europe would represent a strong season.

Rugby World Cup absentees

Chris Harris, Jake Polledri, Callum Braley, Franco Mostert and Willi Heinz.

Key man: Danny Cipriani

“I would've had to turn water into wine to really sway him.”

That was Cipriani’s verdict on Eddie Jones’ decision to omit him from England’s World Cup squad.

The head coach selected just two specialist fly-halves in the shape of captain Owen Farrell and George Ford, despite the former often playing at inside centre.

Cipriani had been part of the pre-tournament training camps but was dropped before the final 31-man squad for Japan was announced.

Despite being named Premiership player of the year in his first season with his new club, the 31-year-old has only played twice since Jones took charge in 2016.

But England’s loss is Gloucester’s gain and with half-back partner Willi Heinz selected for the tournament, Ackermann will be delighted to be able to call on his first choice 10.

His superb assists against Bath and Northampton last term showed the former Wasps man at his very best and when he’s on form, the Gloucester attack falls into place.

Having penned a new three-year contract in April, fears that the mercurial talent could have been leaving Kingsholm were put to rest and all connected to the club will hope his fine form continues and that he can again spearhead their Premiership charge.

One to watch: Jake Polledri

Having won Gloucester’s Young Player of the Season Award for in 2017-18 this may look a rather odd selection on paper but there is thought behind our madness!

It’s not so much that the 23-year-old will breakthrough this year, but that he will come into his own in the red and white jersey.

The back row started two of Italy’s three matches at the World Cup – their final pool stage match against New Zealand was cancelled – as he showed his class on the international stage once again.

With 13 Tests under his belt now, the Bristol-born man is becoming an important player for both club and country.

With World Cup participants expected to be gradually reintroduced into Premiership action, we may be forced to wait a few weeks until we see Polledri at his best.

But we’re confident once he’s back up to speed and playing regularly domestically and in the Champions Cup, this could be his season to shine.

Upcoming Premiership fixtures live on BT Sport

26/10/2019 - Gloucester v Wasps (2.30pm, BT Sport 2 HD)

02/11/2019 - Leicester Tigers v Gloucester (2.30pm, BT Sport 2 HD)

09/11/2019 - Gloucester v Saracens (2.30pm, BT Sport 2 HD)

01/12/2019 - Harlequins v Gloucester (3pm kick off)

20/12/2019 - Gloucester v Worcester Warriors (7.45pm kick off)

28/12/2019 - Northampton Saints v Gloucester (2pm kick off)

04/01/2020 - Gloucester v Bath (3pm kick off)

Find out all of our games chosen for live coverage across the first eight rounds, with 22 matches being shown on TV before the end of 2019.

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