Gloucester Rugby: Hazell told he has nothing to prove on his return
'NEW signing' Andy Hazell is itching to make up for lost time – but has nothing to prove to anyone at Kingsholm, believes Nigel Davies.
Evergreen flanker Hazell has completed his 14-week ban for his red-card punching flurry in Gloucester's 11-6 Mont de Marsan victory in October.
The 34-year-old back-rower is available for selection for Saturday's LV=Cup clash with Northampton at Franklin's Gardens (kick-off 3pm) – and Davies said his return makes him seem like a new addition to the Kingsholm squad.
Gloucester boss Davies is confident Hazell is ready for a playing return straight away – but admitted he has told the popular loose-forward he has nothing to atone for on the field.
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Hazell was mortified by his actions in Mont de Marsan, losing his cool and reacting to the extreme provocation of alleged eye gouging.
But rugby director Davies said all of that has long since been dealt with – and has told Hazell not to let it colour his Gloucester return.
Kingsholm boss Davies explained: "In some respects it will be like a new signing having Andy Hazell back available, because he's been unavailable for so long, and it's unusual obviously to lose players to other reasons than injury.
"Andy is ready to go, and raring to go too.
"Knowing Andy I know he'll be desperate to make up for lost time, so he'll be champing at the bit to get out there and make an impression.
"That desire and commitment, it's great.
"But we've also reminded him he has nothing to prove to us – what happened out in France is in the past and we've all moved on from that.
"So there's no need for him to have to make up for it, he's just got to put it out of his mind and focus on the challenges ahead.
"We've worked hard with him and he has worked very hard himself, to stay in shape and stay focused.
"He's been able to do everything we've been able to do in training, and in this month we've had the chance to do a lot more contact work, because of the nature of the fixtures.
"So hopefully that will stand him in good stead for him returning to action.
"Clearly there's no substitute for match fitness, but Andy is one of the most dedicated and professional guys around, and he'll be ready to return.
"It's important to have a player of his experience and quality coming back into the squad with a crucial run of games ahead of us."
Fit-again Ryan Mills is also in selection contention for Saturday, primed for his first action of the season after knee surgery in August.
With Jonny May and Henry Trinder still on the comeback trail too, Davies said this next LV=Cup fortnight is the perfect time to bring as many players up to full speed as possible.
Back-row stalwart Pete Buxton clambered off the bench for a stylish cameo in Saturday's 36-16 Mont de Marsan victory.
Davies said players who have waited patiently for chances can now push forward in the next two weeks.
He continued: "Hopefully these LV=Cup games will be a good opportunity for him, and a host of other players too, to get right up to full speed, so that we can move things forward again and return to the league action with both momentum and a few little kinks ironed out.
"From a training point of view it's a four-week block that we're training through, to get us back into the Premiership.
"And we're doing a lot of contact work in this block.
"We're obviously mindful of the games we're playing in the Amlin and the LV=Cup, but we're training through it to a certain extent so that we're in the best shape possible when we go back into the Premiership.
"The LV=Cup games are really important to us – it's a great opportunity for guys like Andy and players returning from injury to integrate themselves again.
"And it's an opportunity for us to get our game in order.
"Pete Buxton went very well on Saturday when he came on, showing once again what he can offer.
"We haven't really seen too much of him lately, but this is a chance for him now, and he heads up a group of players in that sort of position.
"So it will be exciting to see how they go – I know they are enthused and excited too, so it should be a very interesting fortnight."