Gloucester Rugby: Davies - We deserve Amlin Challenge Cup quarter final
MY team deserve a home quarter-final in the Amlin Challenge Cup – and we want to host the biggest and best in Europe.
That's the message from Gloucester boss Nigel Davies, who has warned the Cherry and Whites never to underestimate anyone ever again.
Gloucester host Mont de Marsan at Kingsholm today (kick-off 3pm) with club officials confident the game will beat the snow flurries.
Victory today will secure the Cherry and Whites a Kingsholm quarter-final in the second-tier European competition, against a side dropping down from the Heineken Cup.
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Results could conspire for Gloucester to travel to rivals Bath in the next round – but not if they see out a sixth-straight win today.
Tempting as a local derby may be, Davies said he cannot think of anything better than squaring up to a true European giant in the last eight.
Admitting that Gloucester still want to repay the supporters for their lacklustre 18-12 defeat by London Irish on January 5, Davies has demanded his players expect a tough home encounter this afternoon.
Davies explained: "It would be huge to get a home quarter-final, it's only what this team deserves, if you look at this competition in isolation I think we've done very well in a tough group, and to come out of it with five wins so far is credit to this group of players.
"If we get that home draw it would be a fantastic occasion, it obviously gives us a little bit more advantage as well.
"But I think for us to have probably close to a sell-out crowd at Kingsholm for a massive fixture against one of the top European teams would be a fantastic occasion for us all in what is the first year of a two to three-year journey that we're on.
"So the bigger the better at Kingsholm. We've got to get used to playing against the best teams, and we've got to get used to playing in knockout tournaments.
"Getting to a play-off would allow us to do that.
"It's a great experience in its own right, managing that, but to gain that experience as a group would be invaluable, with the ambitions that we have.
"Complacency is certainly something we've got to be guarded against, because as we've admitted before, that was definitely a problem against London Irish.
"I would like to think we've learned our lesson about that though, and I sincerely believe we'll see a different team this weekend.
"We were disappointed of course with that, and we know we've got to make up for that and there's no better place to do that than at Kingsholm.
"It would be great to give the supporters a victory and a performance too, that they can really hold up.
"So that's what we're after this weekend.
"We hope to finish the job tomorrow, but to do that we've got to disregard completely any expectations on our opponents.
"Whatever anyone else has said about them, we've got to be ready for a seriously tough contest.
"We didn't prepare ourselves for that against London Irish and we paid the price.
"We won't make the same mistake again."
Gloucester's bullish and robust qualities have propelled them into a regimented side that is usually difficult to beat.
But now Davies is still pushing his players to push forward and start attacking with more incision.
The former Wales centre continued: "We've seen enough evidence that we're not that far away.
"We have to be mindful of where we are, appreciate what we've got as a team right now, which is very important and the dog that everyone talks about is certainly there.
"Everybody here is working hard to add that extra dimension to our game.
"Overall we're still moving in the right direction, but we never really got up to speed out in France.
"We got the result though and that was vital.
"And now we're desperate to get completely back on track this weekend.
"We are underpinning what we're doing with something solid, and we need to sustain and even improve that, but at the same time we do want to start playing some more rugby, and build on what we've achieved so far.
"So we're still looking to move to the next stage of our development."
Fit-again Henry Trinder and Jonny May returned in last week's 31-26 victory in Bordeaux, but Davies admitted both must still shake off a fair amount of rustiness.
He added: "It was important for those guys to get that first game under their belts, they were obviously rusty but they showed glimpses of what they can do.
"Hopefully this week they'll be a bit further down the line and that will be reflected in their performance."