Gloucester Rugby: Fledglings told to step up to the plate
GLOUCESTER'S fledgling forwards must measure up to the top-level yardstick against the Ospreys, calls Carl Hogg.
Cherry and Whites forwards coach Hogg is excited by the progress of Gloucester's younger pack members.
And now he wants a clutch of them to prove just how fast their development has been by producing powerful performances in Swansea tomorrow night.
The Kingsholm men take on the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium (kick-off 7.45pm) keen to open their LV=Cup account with a victory.
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Developing engine-room talents like Elliott Stooke, Yann Thomas and Koree Britton are all in the selection mix for tomorrow's Anglo-Welsh clash.
And former Scotland loose forward Hogg believes this is the perfect chance for them to show their growing potency.
Hogg explained: "We've got two or three young fellas up front really starting to push hard, and the LV=Cup is a great opportunity to integrate them into first team rugby, just to contrast and compare where they are with some of the more senior guys.
"And we'll see where the likes of Elliott Stooke stand at the end of the game, and it's a good challenge for them."
The continued progression of the likes of Shaun Knight, Tom Savage and Gareth Evans indicates the strength in Gloucester's young forward stocks.
And Hogg said the Kingsholm coaching staff are keen to ensure there is no huge chasm for these youngsters to cross when they step into the first team.
He continued: "We've obviously got one or two changes in personnel for this game, we've got a few youngsters who are pushing the match day 23 on a regular basis now and that's exactly what we want.
"We want young fellas pushing those supposed starters, because competition for places is extremely healthy.
"You don't want a gap between the starting eight and the rest of the group and I don't think we have that.
"This match gives an opportunity for one or two of the younger, less experienced in the group to put their hand up."
Hogg said Gloucester will always take it upon themselves to usher new generations of young talent into the Kingsholm first team – and he said the LV=Cup is the perfect place to start them off.
He said: "The LV=Cup has given opportunities for young players to come through.
"Jonny May had his first taste of playing at full-back in this cup and Freddie Burns made his debut in the competition.
"And this is an opportunity to blood the next group of players coming through like that.
"It is a very challenging competition.
"It's a step up from what some of these young players have had, and it's great to see how they will embrace that challenge."
Hailing Gloucester's increasingly-profitable relationship with Hartpury College, Hogg said that link up offers a constant boost to the Cherry and Whites' impressive Academy structures.
Hogg added: "Hartpury's an absolutely fantastic breeding ground for rugby players, and we're hugely fortunate to have that facility and also to enjoy a very fruitful relationship with them.
"We're very grateful for that relationship and long may it continue.
"We'll continue to blood young players and give them chances, and we always have done at Gloucester.
"With the way our academy is set up and the way the club works in tandem with Hartpury, it's a great situation now.
"It's absolutely fantastic to see players come through and have chances to prove themselves.
"And it's even better to know that the systems in place to make that happen are working, and working pretty well."