Gloucester Rugby: Davies: We must not be fearful of Perpignan pack
PERPIGNAN'S potent pack punch holds no fears for Gloucester, asserts Nigel Davies.
The bullish Cherry and Whites boss believes his under-fire forwards can strike back after Sunday's undercooked showing in 29-12 home defeat by Exeter Chiefs.
Gloucester host Catalan club Perpignan at Kingsholm tonight (6pm), desperate to hit the Heineken Cup in style, and atone for last week's lacklustre loss.
French Top 14 powers Perpignan bring a monster front-five and a canny back-row to Gloucester tonight – with former Gloucester favourites Luke Narraway and Alasdair Strokosch making a first Kingsholm return.
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Rugby director Davies conceded Exeter 'beat up' Gloucester in his side's third Premiership defeat in five matches this season.
The well-drilled Chiefs are the second league outfit to do a number on Gloucester's pack this term after Sale edged to 22-16 Kingsholm victory on the season's opening day.
But that does not stop Davies backing his forwards to shrug off the 'stick' and at least match the French marauders tonight.
Davies said: "There's no doubt they will come at us primarily up front, that's where they will attack us and we're aware of that.
"But it holds no fear for us, we've just got to make sure we're at the races this weekend.
"I'd rather not be coming off the back of the performance from last weekend in order to go up against the challenge.
"But it's a big challenge for our boys, and we absolutely have to be in the right place.
"This team can do it, these individuals can do it.
"But they have to put themselves in the right place, their capability as individuals and collectively is there, but it means they have to be right at the top of their game.
"And that's what we've been talking about and working with this week.
"A lot of it is to do with reputation, when there's a 50-50 call, a referee who is only human, if he thinks one side is stronger than another in a particular area, the chances are those calls will go against you.
"But there's only once place we can put that reputation right really, and that's a big challenge for us.
"If we can put it right tonigh, it will be a great opposition to do it against."
Davies has challenged his players to recalibrate their mental approach – and his pack to prove they do not suffer from a soft centre.
He continued: "We know last weekend was unacceptable, we've spoken about that at length.
"And we also know this is an opportunity for us to show ourselves as much as anyone else where we are.
"The pack of forwards are very frustrated, because they certainly didn't fire the way they want against Exeter, and they have taken a lot of criticism and stick already this season.
"But this year already they have gone up against a very strong Northampton pack, and proved their worth.
"But mentally they have to be absolutely in the right place, and I'm expecting that from the pack this week.
"I've asked for an awful lot more from my players this week, and they will be asking an awful lot more from themselves too.
"Unforced errors, work-rate and discipline – they were miles away from where they needed to be last week.
"If we keep it down to 10 penalties or less then we're likely to win games, but it was 18 last week.
"There are reasons for that, though, and we have to understand those reasons.
"It's not just about giving stupid penalties away, although, of course, that's part of it.
"When you are put under pressure for extended periods then you are going to concede penalties.
"If you don't hold on to the ball, then you will end up the wrong side of the penalty-count."
Expecting back-rowers Narraway and Strokosch to wind their team-mates into a frenzy, Davies said French clubs are fast shedding their reputation as poor travellers.
He added: "They will know all about Kingsholm and how to counter that factor.
"Those players have been brought in to do a psychological job in terms of being able to go away and be more hard-nosed in terms of that mentality, and I think it's paid dividend.
"Perpignan have had a reasonable start to the season, and those two boys have been involved quite a lot.
"There are quite a few British players in their team right now, and I think they will have a tougher mentality away from home than your traditional French side might.
"It's an attitude they've been working hard to change over the last four to five years, and part of that process has been to bring in foreign players to shore up that mental strength."
GLOUCESTER: R Cook, J May, M Tindall, B Twelvetrees, J Simpson-Daniel, F Burns, J Cowan, Y Thomas, H Edmonds, S Knight, E Stooke, J Hudson, T Savage (capt), M Kvesic, S Kalamafoni.Replacements: D George, D Murphy, R Harden, G Evans, A Qera, D Robson, R Mills, M Thomas.