Gloucester Rugby: Elliott Stooke has the brains to thrive, says James Hudson
BULLISH young lock Elliott Stooke's 'great rugby brain' will help him realise his rich Kingsholm potential, believes impressed peer James Hudson.
Gloucester's lineout boss Hudson reckons Stooke's sharp tactical mind will be just as vital as his imposing 6ft 6in, 18-stone frame in his bid for a thriving Cherry and Whites future.
England Under-20s graduate Stooke (pictured) has blasted his way into regular first-team contention this term, proving himself a gritty tight-five operator.
But former Newcastle Falcons captain Hudson knows there is far more to Stooke's game than simply brute force.
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Tipping the former Stow on the Wold RFC lock to keep cranking up his rapid Kingsholm rise, second-row Hudson pledged to help Stooke as much as possible in that battle.
Hudson admits his own development was accelerated by the likes of Danny Grewcock and Rob Fidler when he was a youngster at Bath.
And now the 31-year-old is ready to return the favour with Gloucester's highly-rated crop of young locks, which Stooke clearly spearheads.
Hudson explained: "I'm really enjoying working with all the second-rows; we've got a great group.
"Everyone's got different qualities, but Stookey's really coming on well.
"He's getting opportunities at a young age, but in fairness to him he's taking them.
"He's got a massive future ahead of him: clearly he's a big, physical unit for a young boy, but he's also got a great rugby brain, and he knows how to make things happen for himself and others around him.
"It's great to see him develop and hopefully great to be a part of helping him to do that.
"I was once in that position as a youngster coming through of course, and so I know how much I valued senior players helping you out.
"I was lucky enough to play alongside guys like Danny Grewcock and Rob Fidler and they really helped me a great deal.
"They were unbelievably good locks, ok not necessarily lineout specialists, but they would help guide you through things and support you.
"Stookey's a strong boy, doing really well, and hopefully the more experienced players among us can help him fulfil his massive potential."
Stunned by the Kingsholm atmosphere, Hudson admitted he has never experienced its equal in his decade of top-level club rugby.
Keen to hit top form as he shrugs off his pre-season pectoral injury, Hudson challenged Gloucester to sharpen up still further from Saturday's 27-22 Perpignan victory.
Expecting an even tougher test against Munster in Limerick on Saturday (6pm), he continued: "This competition is different, the level is different and it's something you have to build into.
"We were so gutted to concede in the first minute, but we managed to deal with it.
"I was pretty devastated to pick up the pectoral injury in pre-season, because at a new club you want to be performing straight away.
"I did bits I was pleased with against Exeter, but it's getting back into my legs now and I've got a couple of 80 minutes under my belt and it's all going to help.
"Hopefully I can build that forward now.
"On a personal front it was good, but the most pleasing aspects came more as a unit.
"As a pack we came in for some stick against Exeter, and we have done a couple of times already this season.
"That was fair in some respects, but there's no lack of ability here.
"A few technical things caught us out in the scrum against Exeter, and we have to stay disciplined as an eight.
"We worked extremely hard on that last week, and hopefully solved some things as a group.
"That was a big scrum we went against there, and I think we really got control for the most part in the scrum.
"Our lineout was decent too: I think we've got to improve our drive still, but we stopped their drive better this time and that was good.
"We were very precise about what we wanted to do and how to do it, and it paid off.
"There was a bit of relief, but it's just immense to get the result.
"And that atmosphere was incredible.
"I've just never experienced anything like that before.
"There's nothing like it, and as a home, it's unparalleled.
"And now it's about us having the belief in ourselves to take this forward.
"It was great to repay that support on Saturday, and now we've got to take it up another level."