Gloucester Rugby: Foundations in place for success - Nick Wood
NIGEL Davies' Gloucester know exactly how to handle rugby's toughest challenges – so it is high time they cracked the supposedly easier elements, calls Nick Wood.
Loosehead prop Wood lists the chief virtues of the embryonic Davies era as 'resilience, hard work, defence, physicality'.
Add in fluency and attacking verve and Gloucester might not be too far shy of that craved silverware – certainly the Kingsholm feeling at Christmas.
But then came that 18-12 London Irish defeat, and the Cherry and Whites quickly had to search souls.
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Victory in Bordeaux went some way to setting the record straight, believes Wood, but he admits it is about time the Kingsholm men got their game totally together.
The 30-year-old said: "We've always known there's massive potential in the squad.
"But I think going to places like Harlequins, not playing particularly well but staying in the game right to the last minute to secure a losing bonus-point, I think that built confidence.
"And at Sarries, we should have won the game, and then at Leicester, even though we were second-best for long periods of the game, we put ourselves in position to win the game at the end.
"So we're doing something right.
"If we can compete in those games and situations, there's no reason why we can't do it at home, and also do it anywhere.
"We've played the top three away, and in at least two of them we should have perhaps come away with a win.
"So what's stopping us going and doing it at Northampton, Bath, Wasps? That's the challenge we've set ourselves.
"Even if things haven't been perfect the foundation has been there – the resilience, the hard work, the defence, the physicality.
"That was why London Irish was so disappointing, because the foundations weren't there.
"That's probably the one time we've slipped up on the foundations this season and we're going to strive to make sure it's the only one."
Not even a patchy performance in Bordeaux is enough to dent Wood's confidence in Gloucester's progress, the man from Cirencester citing the defeat in Agen two years ago.
Gloucester's healthy half-time lead evaporated in flash that night, helping Wood make the point that a win any which way in France is not to be trifled.
The Cherry and Whites host Mont de Marsan at Kingsholm on Saturday (kick-off 3pm) where a hefty victory will secure a home quarter-final in the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Wood said Gloucester must heed that last-eight carrot, respect Saturday's challenge but emerge victorious.
He said: "There's a few teams dropping down from the Heineken Cup and a quarter-final is not to be sniffed at.
"We needed to respond from the Irish loss last week, and secure a win at any costs.
"Bordeaux were the better side for long periods of the game, but we had the resilience and strength in depth to pull it out at the end.
"There are clear frustrations around our performance but a win's a win.
"But how many times in the past have we been to places like Agen, them sitting bottom of the league, we get ourselves in a good position and should win, only to come back having lost.
"So we've got to take it for what it is really.
"It was about re-establishing some kind of momentum.
"We've got some big away games during the Six Nations coming up and we needed a step up.
"We let our foot off the pace big-time against Irish and we really needed to get back on track.
"We worked out some frustrations on the training pitch and over in Bordeaux last week, and now we've got to move on.
"The best way to do just that is to produce something to remember for the right reasons this weekend."