Gloucester Rugby: Nigel Davies - Squad rivals anyone
GLOUCESTER'S match day squad rivals anything in the Premiership, believes Nigel Davies.
Rugby director Davies reckons the Cherry and Whites boast not just a formidable starting XV – but a potent replacements bench too.
After adding Italian hooker Tommaso D'Apice to the Kingsholm ranks this week, Davies is still running the rule over trialist scrum-half Brad Field.
Refusing to rule out further additions to the squad if and when necessary, the Gloucester boss said the Kingsholm club have a line-up on a par with the majority of the league.
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Empowering the entire match 23 rather than just the starting side, Davies backed the Cherry and Whites to pull off victory at London Irish this afternoon (kick-off 3pm).
Gloucester are battling to end a seven-game league losing streak, their worst run since 1998-99 in the league, if counting the woeful slide at the end of last term.
But this is just the second game of Davies' tenure and the campaign, and the new boss said his men must take advantage of the fresh start.
Expecting a stern test at the Madejski Stadium, Davies explained: "I firmly believe that we've got a very strong squad, as strong as most teams in the Premiership, and the ability to have 23 players to come on and impact the game, that's huge for us.
"We've got a very strong 23 who can impact the game, and when we look at how the game will pan out that certainly plays a part in how we view matches.
"It's been tough to select the squad, there's a lot of players playing at the same level, things are competitive, and that's great because they will drive each other on.
"We saw the influence of bringing real energy and quality into the game off the bench in the second half against Northampton.
"We talk about the squad of 23 because that's what goes into the match, but there's plenty more than that up for selection. That will drive everyone's performances.
"And I'll certainly be asking for more of the same from the replacements in the game against Irish."
Gloucester rallied from nowhere to run Saints close in 24-19 defeat last weekend, but Davies said a vainglorious comeback is not something to be accepted.
Calling for calm in possession, Davies has told his players to keep the ball, grind through the phases and understand how to make time erode opposition defences, just as much as snapshot flair.
He continued: "We've got to be far better at lineout time, both on our own and the opposition ball.
"I was happy with the breakdown, we only lost possession once at the breakdown on our ball, which is very good against a side like Saints when we're dealing with things out wide as well.
"But we've just got to look after the ball. We had so many opportunities, particularly in that last 20 minutes, where everything was there for us – our shape, our pattern – but then we turned over in the tackle or through a pass, and that's the one thing that's stopping us progressing at the moment.
"We've got the first part of the jigsaw right at the breakdown – although we can't relax on that front and must keep on top of it – but now we've got to get a little sharper and smarter when we're moving this ball and what we're doing with it.
"And maybe we don't have to force those last passes as well, believing that if we go through the phases we will be rewarded. Every time we got over four or five phases on the weekend we scored points."