'England policy can benefit us'
ENGLAND'S staunch refusal to select overseas-based players is a big weapon in Gloucester's battle to retain all their top talent, believes Nigel Davies.
The Gloucester boss hailed the RFU's strong stance against the vast riches on offer across The Channel and beyond, admitting the Cherry and Whites will certainly use that to their advantage.
Highly-prized England trio Freddie Burns, Billy Twelvetrees and Charlie Sharples are all out of contract at the end of the coming season.
Rugby director Davies believes their burning England ambitions will fuel their desire to keep plying their trade in the Premiership.
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But even if that gives Gloucester a head-start, Davies knows the Cherry and Whites must pull out all the stops to keep their top stars at Kingsholm.
Gloucester have already launched into their retention strategy to handle their 24 stars whose deals will expire at the end of the campaign.
The Citizen understands the Cherry and Whites have now started dialogue with a number of their out-of-contract brigade.
The Gloucester board are quietly confident of steady progress but will not take anything for granted until potential new deals are signed and sealed.
Praising the English game's stance on France, Davies said: "France and everything that comes with it is definitely a challenge.
"But where England internationals are concerned, the policy of not selecting English players playing abroad is great.
"I think that's fantastic, and it certainly adds value to the Premiership in general.
"These young players are hugely ambitious, and quite rightly they want to thrive with country as well as club.
"We believe we have a great set-up here that allows players hopefully to perform regularly to the standards they crave, and also that England want.
"If players can continue to see the routes through the Gloucester team and into the England set-up, then hopefully that can be a factor in retaining them."
While national safeguards may help the battle to hold on to current and potential England stars, they hold no sway over the likes of Sione Kalamafoni and Akapusi Qera.
The Tongan powerhouse excelled in his first Kingsholm campaign last term, and is exactly the kind of line-breaking back-rower that Top 14 French clubs always crave.
James Simpson-Daniel was very nearly tempted by the life experience of a switch to Castres two years ago, but was convinced to commit to Gloucester once again.
The 31-year-old admitted his England career was done and dusted last season, so he is another who could yet weigh up a move to France.
But Davies is clear on Gloucester's determination not to lose any of the club's frontline assets.
He knows one way to keep players keen to stay in the long term is to claim success in the short and a strong start to the season will definitely ease the process.
Davies said: "The first five games will be pretty crucial.
"By the time we kick off the season against Sale next week, we're going to be in good shape.
"It's a long old season and the best teams grow into a season, but you still need to start well, and we want to be winning from day one.
"Pre-season is all about preparing to start the campaign in the right frame of mind."
■ Jonny May's boost, p43